OFFICERS will continue cracking down on a criminal ‘business model’ which ropes vulnerable people into the supply of illegal drugs, a police chief has vowed.

Inspector Gareth Cust, of the North Flintshire policing team, told members at the Shotton Town Council monthly meeting that the force is doing all they can to tackle County Lines - the supply of drugs from larger cities like Liverpool, to smaller, rural areas in North Wales.

The Inspector told members: "It's a business model. In Liverpool, you're up against a lot of competition. They see North Wales as a place where they aren't known. It's a big market but less competition.

"It's something that affects Shotton and all of North Wales. It's bedlam here.

"One main concern for us is the violence that comes with it. We in North Flintshire have a proactive team consisting of a Sgt and officers who are tasked to look at specifically this.

"A lot of people say we are never going to win the battle but as a police officer I can't take that approach.

"When we address these issues, the goal for me is protecting vulnerable people. That's the incentive to keep going."

Shotton councillors heard how drug dealing and misuse has always been an issue but County Lines has increased in the last five years.

A mobile phone is controlled in the home city and this line will be used to send out bulk messages to people with details about drugs. These phones can make up to £5,000 a day.

Inspector Cust added: "Where it affects yourselves locally is in order to facilitate these lines they will target people in the local area and have these people as runners. They will recruit vulnerable people, mainly children or vulnerable adults, possibly addicts relying on them for their drugs supply.

"They recruit children in Merseyside to come down into towns like Shotton with cash or money to meet up with people. They will target children who possibly come from backgrounds which allow them to be exploited.

"When someone is taken off the radar, they are replaced by someone else, it's a constant battle so it's about trying to get one step ahead."

The Inspector told councillors that they conduct regular drug warrants and in one morning they carried out nine, but that takes a lot of resources.

He said there is an issue with cuckooing, where gangs are seeking to find someone who is vulnerable in a local town and take over their home address to use as a base.

North Wales Police has set up a Triforce with Merseyside and Cheshire to crack down on the County Lines issue.

Councillor Dave Evans asked the Inspector what was being done regarding the Bidston - Wrexham train line and concerns it is being used as an access route for drugs.

The Inspector said: "The problem with it is there's a fresh supply of vulnerable people all the time.

"We are not responsible for policing the rail network, that's not to say we don't care about it but British Transport Police is technically a private police force. We have access to CCTV reactively but we don't have live viewing.

"We are meeting to see what future opportunities we can do on the rail line."

Anyone with concerns or information about County Lines and Cuckooing can contact North Wales Police on 101 or via the live webchat service.