HAMPSHIRE is the most targeted southern county in the country for county lines, new figures have revealed.

The area is the second highest county in the country overall, according to research carried out by City Hall in London.

The statistics showed that more than 4,000 people in London have been recruited by gangs to supply drugs through networks across the UK. 

The Gazette last week began an investigation into the issue amid a recent spate in drug-related crimes in parts of Basingstoke. 

Hampshire Constabulary has said it is aware the county has a problem with county lines and is taking 'robust' action to tackle it. 

Children as young as 11 are being coerced by criminal gangs, according to the research. London is the highest exporting area for so-called county lines gangs.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “We’re only scratching the surface of a major national issue that is driving violence in London and across the country.”

Norfolk was the county with the highest number of individuals linked to London county lines gangs with Hampshire in second place and Essex in third.

In fourth was Sussex while Thames Valley and Suffolk were fifth and sixth respectively.

The National Crime Agency, which jointly runs the National County Lines Coordination Centre with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, has estimated there are more than 2,000 individual deal line numbers in operation in the UK with annual profits for each in excess of £800,000.

A Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said: "We are aware that Hampshire does have an issue with drugs supply in the county and we are taking robust action to tackle this. 

"We continue to work extremely hard, alongside other partner agencies, to bring criminals related to county lines to justice and support those vulnerable people who are exploited by criminals. 

"We would ask the public to play a part by being our eyes and ears in the community. 

"If you see something suspicious, let us know. Any information you give can be used to build up an intelligence picture that will allow us to take positive action." 

To report, call 101 or ring 999 if a crime is in progress. You can also report online via our website www.hampshire.police.uk. If you don't want to give your name, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. 

  • If you're a young person worried about being involved in county lines or you know someone who is, speak to a trusted adult or contact www.fearless.org. 
  • If you're a parent or carer and you're worried about a young person being involved in drugs, Safer North Hampshire is running a series of workshops to support you. Go to www.safernh.co.uk for more information.