POLICE “cannot arrest their way out of” the escalating issue of 'County Lines' drug dealing, a crime commissioner has stated.

North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said the government needed to recognise the scale of the phenomenon of city-based gangs targeting children and vulnerable adults, using coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons in the county.

Heroin and crack cocaine are the main drugs being supplied through the dedicated phone lines.

Outlining North Yorkshire Police’s response to County Lines, Mrs Mulligan said: “North Yorkshire has seen one of the biggest growths of County Lines activities in the country. 

“Harrogate is now being recognised by the national crime agency as an area of concern.”

She said while police had identified 20 unique deal line telephone numbers linked to 14 different County Lines in North Yorkshire and York, the scale of the issue nationally was huge.

Harrogate is impacted by seven lines, York by four, Scarborough and Whitby by two, and Skipton by one.

Seven of the North Yorkshire lines are involved in cuckooing –  when dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person and use it to deal drugs – with 74 addresses being identified in the last 12 months.

Last month alone 27 victims of cuckooing were identified.

She outlined the scale of the issue facing the country, saying while London had 303 County Lines, in Merseyside there were 91, 72 in Birmingham, 24 in Greater Manchester, 14 in Coventry and 13 in Bradford.

Mrs Mulligan told the committee during the most recent national week of action against County Lines there were 641 arrests, 41 referrals into the modern day slavery support unit, 769 cuckooing incidents, 357 vulnerable children and 582 vulnerable adults that they dealt with.

She said while North Yorkshire Police had increased resources and activity she had “some concerns that nationally the government is not necessarily recognising sufficiently through its funding mechanisms the threat and the impact in counties like North Yorkshire”.

She added: “Some additional money has been granted but North Yorkshire wasn’t a recipient of that funding, which we argued hard against at the time and indeed I met the director of the Home Office yesterday and spoke to him about it.

“I would hope that the government response to this also starts to look at not only those areas where the volumes are very high, but also the changing nature of this threat and how it is developing over time." 

Members of the panel told Mrs Mulligan that they believed the force was just “scratching the surface” of the issue.

Former national crime squad officer Councillor Tim Grogan told the panel that drugs in some areas of the county were “endemic”.

Mrs Mulligan said leading experts had recognised that police would not be able to arrest their way out of the issue, but that it had been recognised North Yorkshire had really good partnership working across the county to prevent some vulnerable people from being targeted.