COUNTY lines is a "national scourge" causing "a real problem", Boris Johnson has told the Gazette

The Prime Minister was asked about his thoughts on the drug trafficking issue causing havoc in Basingstoke on a visit to Salisbury today.

It comes after the Gazette today published its first installment in an investigation into the matter of county lines

Since the beginning of the month, reporters have been tracking the number of drug-related incidents in Basingstoke following the death of London teenager Taylor Williams. 

Taylor, described as "loving and charming" by friends and family, was murdered on Saturday, August 31.

It is believed he was stabbed to death as part of a plot from others to steal drugs from him.

Speaking to the Gazette today, Mr Johnson said: "It is a tragedy that kids are getting stabbed on the streets, because they are the victims of shadowy figures that are running these county lines gangs”.

The Conservative Party leader continued: “What we’ve got to do is two things, first of all put more money into policing, get more cops out onto the streets, to wind up the gangs and deter kids from carrying knives.”

He said the second thing was to "roll up" the kingpins of drug networks and give them "very serious sentences". 

“Young people are dying to further their profits,” he continued.

Mr Johnson has been very vocal since taking over as Prime Minister about his support for the police, pledging to hire an extra 20,000 officers in the next three years – a plan costing over £1 billion.

Martin Hewitt, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, has said up to half a million people will need to apply to become police officers if the PM’s plans are to be met.

However, speaking on Thursday, Mr Johnson said that 46,000 people will be interviewed for the new roles, saying “we’re working hard on it”.

“We think we can do about seven or eight thousand a year, and to the best of my knowledge the first recruiting is starting now.”

Mr Johnson was in Salisbury on a "soft visit" to meet members of the British Army.

A Gazette Investigation this week highlighted the issues the town is facing when it comes to drug dealing, with three people charged in connection with the murder of Williams.

Olamide Soyege, 28 from Dagenham, and Terrance Maccabee, 18 from Peckham, have both been charged with the 18-year-old’s murder, as well as drug offences.

Meanwhile, Paige Taylor, of Basingstoke, has been charged with robbery of Class A drugs and conspiracy to rob others “from a drug network”.

The Gazette also reported how a group known as the ‘Drive Marlow Crew’ had been running a drugs network in Basingstoke and Tadley.

After the final sentencing on Monday, the total amount that the gang is set to spend in prison is nearly 64 years.

This is after residents across the town told the Gazette that they feel too afraid to go out at night, whilst others said that they had concerns about raising their children.