COUNTY lines gangs are moving in on posh WAG districts as they peddle drugs in leafy Cheshire, it can be revealed.
Kids from out of town are hitting the streets to peddle crack in the affluent areas called home by superstar Premier League footballers and their wives.
The drug running techniques see vulnerable kids and adults forced into carrying and selling drugs across county boundaries using dedicated mobile hotlines.
And now concerns have been raised that Cheshire – home to England and Everton star Phil Jagielka and ex-England striker Peter Crouch’s partner Abbey Clancy – is becoming a hotspot for the exploitative crimes.
And locals have revealed their concerns over the deluge of crime taking over the county boosted by reality show The Real Housewives of Cheshire.
One local street dealer told The Mirror how drug runners were travelling from Liverpool to Knutsford to sell drugs.
The teen, named as 18-year-old Luke, said: "Scousers are coming to Knutsford to sell drugs. “They drive up in their flashy cars – usually Range Rovers – and sell crack and heroin.
"Then you have gangs from Stretford in Manchester who sell weed and pills. They have flats here called trap houses which they rent.
"There’s lots of money here which is why they are coming to sell."
Other locals flagged concerns the area would go downhill as it became increasingly plagued with drugs.
The problem has become so bad that Crimestoppers and Cheshire Police launched a campaign to highlight the dangers of the operations in the area.
The social media campaign will particularly target 13 areas, including Runcorn, Winsford, Chester, Ellesmere Port, Alsager, Crewe, Middlewich, Nantwich, Northwich, Knutsford, Sandbach, Warrington and Congleton.
NARCO NETWORKS What is the county lines child exploitation scandal and how are children being groomed to run drugs for London dealers?
COUNTY lines is a sinister drug running technique that gangs are using to sell drugs in other towns by exploiting kids and vulnerable adults.
The dealing technique uses young people or vulnerable adults to carry and sell drugs across county boundaries using dedicated mobile phone hotlines.
The advantage to dealers is they can sell drugs outside the area they live in – often impoverished towns – and therefore reduce the risk of getting caught.
A criminal group may also target a vulnerable person living in an area outside of London and other major cities and take over their home as a base to sell drugs from.
Boys aged 14-17 are the most often targeted, however girls can also be exploited, often starting a relationship with a gang member that can lead to sexual and domestic violence.
Adults who are drug addicts or have learning difficulties are also targeted.
Signs to look out for that someone is involved in County Lines activity:
- Returning home late, staying out all night or going missing
- Being found in areas away from home
- Increasing drug use, or being found to have large amounts of drugs on them
- Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
- Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work
- Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery
- Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
- Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
- Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled
- Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places
** According to Children's Society
Last year, Crimestoppers received 2,956 pieces of information from the public in Cheshire, up from 2,672 the previous year – with the majority regarding drug dealing and supply.
And the town's Deputy Mayor Andrew Malloy admitted there was a problem, adding: "The bigger thing is people see Knutsford as affluent so they see money and try to target it."
Sergeant Rob Anderson, of Widnes Local Policing Unit, said: "Keeping people and our community safe from organised crime is our priority in Widnes. Last week we worked really hard to disrupt those who deal drugs in our community while also protecting those exploited by their activity.
"This type of criminality often means vulnerable adults and children are targeted by criminals to deliver and deal drugs on their behalf after being criminally exploited, coerced and manipulated.
"Breaking this cycle is very difficult and while we work with our partners it is important the public support us by knowing how to spot signs of criminal exploitation.
"We listen to the public when they provide us with information and I would encourage the local community to always keep an eye out and if you feel something isn’t right report it to us on 101."
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