Wiltshire Police along with other forces across the region is urging professionals working in the hospitality industry to familiarise themselves with signs of County Lines activity and to report any suspicious activity to their local police force.

County lines gangs are using short-term accommodation, holiday lets, B&Bs and hotels in the South West of the UK to exploit young children and vulnerable adults to move, store and sell drugs, according to the police.

Detective Inspector Paul Franklin from Wiltshire Police says: “Here in Wiltshire we are committed to tackling County Lines drugs gangs and protecting those at risk of being exploited by these individuals. Our officers are committed to tackling this issue and are working tirelessly to gather intelligence and take action against these criminals on a daily basis.

“The public play a central role in our fight against County Lines and we would urge people to familiarise themselves with the signs that somebody may be being exploited by a County Lines drugs gang.

“We would also like to encourage those working in hotels and hostels to equip themselves with the information they need to spot the signs that a guest may be a victim of criminal exploitation and may be using their facilities as a base to deal drugs.

"The hospitality industry has a big role to play in helping us protect vulnerable people and it is important we work together to dismantle County Lines.”

County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs out of bigger cities into one or more smaller towns in the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of ‘deal line’.

Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Paterson, A&S force lead for County Lines said: "The South West is home to thousands of hotels, B&Bs, and other short-term accommodation.

"We know that some of these premises are being used by County Lines drug dealers, not just to abuse and exploit victims, but also to store and sell drugs.

“What we often find is that drug gangs from large cities will use vulnerable people to peddle their drugs in other parts of the country, and they will sometimes place their victims in these types of short-term accommodation.

“County Lines knows no borders. This is why we are working together with police forces in our region to remind drug dealers that they are not welcome in the South West.

"We are committed to tackling County Lines, protecting our communities and making our region hostile to County Lines dealers. However, we can’t do it alone.

“It is of vital importance that we work together with professionals from the hospitality industry to educate about county lines and encourage reporting. We are urging those working in the hospitality industry such as hotel managers, Airbnb owners, cleaners, and letting agencies to familiarise themselves with the signs of County Lines and abuse, and to report anything that seems suspicious. By reporting suspicious activity, you could be helping to save a life.

“If you spot the signs, please act on your concerns. The best advice we can give is to trust your instincts. Even if someone isn’t involved in County Lines drug dealing, they may be being exploited in some other way, so it’s always worth speaking out.”

The police work closely with partner agencies in housing, drug and alcohol support services and local authorities to identify and support those at risk, identify the perpetrators, disrupt the enterprises and bring offenders to justice.

Detective Inspector Mark Whitaker, regional county lines coordinator at the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (SW ROCU), said: “We currently have around 60 county lines impacting our region, which predominantly stem from London, Merseyside and the West Midlands.

“Almost half of these lines can be attributed to organised crime groups that use children and vulnerable adults to distribute their drugs in the region.

“We’ve got a really joined up approach both with forces in the South West and those areas where the county lines originate, but we never underestimate the value of information from our communities. The more people who recognise the signs of exploitation and report it in, the better.”