POLICE are urging the public to look out for children and vulnerable adults being exploited by drugs gangs.

They fear so-called county lines drugs gangs will take advantage of busy Dorset resorts where their victims could easily get “lost in the crowd.”

Superintendent Rob Chalkley, of Dorset Police, said: “County lines refers to a process where drugs gangs exploit children and vulnerable adults and make them courier drugs and money across the country from the gang’s base to customers in towns across Dorset. The ‘county line’ refers to the mobile phone line, which is the link for the drugs gangs to sell drugs.

“Dorset is always busy in the summer, but this year is busier than most as people look to enjoy a break following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. We know children and vulnerable adults exploited by gangs can get lost in the crowd at this time of year, which is why we are asking for help to keep people safe.”

Some of the signs of county lines include children from outside of the area travelling long distances on public transport alone and paying for tickets with large amounts of cash, or children with multiple mobile phones, tablets or SIM cards.

People have also been asked to look out for dealers who befriend vulnerable people to take over their home and tunr it into a drugs den.

Superintendent Chalkley added: “This is called ‘cuckooing’. Urban dealers often target homes of vulnerable people in small, rural and coastal towns where they can set up shop and sell drugs. Signs of cuckooing include unknown or suspicious looking people coming and going from a neighbour’s house at odd times of the day or night.

“We are asking people to help us to keep Dorset safe. Please visit our website to know the signs of county lines and also keep an eye out over the busy summer period. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, you can report it to us via our non-emergency channels or you can report it, 100 per cent anonymously, to Crimestoppers.”

Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset, said: “Criminal gangs involved in county lines exploit some of the most vulnerable in our society. They think nothing of targeting children and vulnerable adults and sometimes use threats of violence to coerce them into moving drugs across the country.

“County lines is a problem that is larger than the police and requires a response from a wide range of organisations. The public also have a role to play. By learning to spot the signs and reporting any suspicions they may have they can help protect victims of exploitation. As people enjoy the sunny weather and all that our beautiful county has to offer this summer, we are asking the public to keep a lookout for anything that could indicate exploitation in Dorset.”