MORE than £28,000 worth of drugs have been seized and 35 people arrested in the past week as police cracked down on drug dealers.

Officers arrested five people in Southampton, one in the New Forest and one in Gosport in the week starting January 21.

More than £12,000 cash was also recovered.

This was part of a crackdown on County Lines drug dealing.

County Lines is the name given to the practice in which organised gangs from urban centres expand their drug dealing activity to smaller towns and rural areas.

Dealers typically use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of drugs which becomes a valuable asset and is protected with violence and intimidation.

Figures release by Hampshire police yesterday showed that over the last week five mobile phones, 153g of pills and 59g of suspected crack cocaine were seized in Southampton, while two mobile phones and 14g of suspected crack cocaine were seized in the New Forest.

Officers in Hampshire have also executed warrants, stop searches, conducted safeguarding visits, and worked with schools to raise awareness of this method of drug supply.

Supt Matthew Reeves, who led the operation, said: “The County Lines is relatively new. This networks operate across the country. The reason is so significant for us is because the model involves exploitations of children and adults.”

He explained that drug dealers approach youngsters and give them gifts such as new trainers, asking them to sell drugs in return.

Vulnerable people are also groomed for county lines.

“It’s not only the obviously vulnerable who are groomed for county lines. Young people from all backgrounds have been groomed for transporting and dealing drugs.

“This type of criminality needs a partnership approach, including our communities. I would urge anyone who is concerned about someone who may be involved in this activity to contact us or one of our partners,” Supt Reeves added.

As part of the crackdown officers have also been at the Isle of Wight Ferry terminals with drugs dogs to check passengers travelling between the Island and the mainland.

“This is a real issue which is affecting Hampshire along with other areas in the country. This week of action has been hugely successful from our perspective. A number of officers and staff have come together to target county lines which present the greatest threat, risk and harm to our communities,” Supt Reeves said.