County lines drugs: Youth clubs 'key to tackling gang rise'

Drug deal taking place Image copyright Getty Images

More youth clubs could be the key to stopping the spread of drug gangs, a police and crime commissioner says.

Dafydd Llywelyn believes they can make towns in the Dyfed-Powys force area "inhospitable" for gangs.

More than 100 drug gangs are operating in Wales and cocaine and heroin deaths have risen sharply since the county lines network started four years ago.

Residents in Llanelli who launched a task force have been given £50,000 to tackle drug-related crime.

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Media captionWhat is "county lines"?

The National Crime Agency says gang activity in Wales tends to be run by drug bosses pulling the strings mainly from London, Birmingham and Liverpool.

People in the Seaside area of Llanelli were once so scared to leave their homes due to the amount of crimes linked to drugs, they organised a public meeting to tackle the problem.

Image caption Amanda Carter is part of a task-force in Llanelli to help tackle the growth of county lines gangs

Local resident Amanda Carter, who organised the public meetings, said: "We had drugs in the street, needles found everywhere, we had zombie like figures, young people on bikes going around delivering drugs.

"Everyone was frightened just to walk up the road, because you never knew who was going to be on the corner.

Speaking to Claire Summers on BBC Radio Wales, Ms Carter said: "I've actually seen them... and doing the deals, and then if you call the police, they're gone.

"They're untraceable, we don't know who they are, we can't catch them quick enough on film."

Ms Carter installed CCTV cameras on her house to protect herself from the "havoc".

Now a newly set-up task force has been given funding from the police and commissioner's office so local people and politicians can make their community safe from gangs.

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Media caption"We're drowning in street drugs and it'll get worse"

Ms Carter added: "A lot of people are still frightened to talk.

"If people don't want to actually report things to the police than they can come to us and we'll do that instead. It just proves that a community can fight back."

The Seaside community effort has helped so much that now it is being held up an example to tackle county lines drugs gangs in Wales.

A drug user's story

Image copyright Getty Images

"The Birmingham line here will give you a deal you can't refuse.

"They buy children's loyalty so they'll become runners for them - maybe £100 on a pair of trainers and £100 cash.

"I know one guy who let county lines deal out of his house. They completely humiliated him - made him dance for them and stuff.

"They bring swords and weapons and they're not afraid to use them. People are scared of them. I think they're like modern day vampires."

Image caption About 100 angry residents held a meeting as drug crimes in their area were making locals "scared"
Image caption The Seaside area of Llanelli has been given special funding to help tackle drugs after a public meeting

Mr Llewelyn said: "I think it's fantastic that the community has come together.

"These organised crime groups want to disrupt communities, so the community coming together, with the support from this funding, should hopefully help things to improve."

The commissioner believes the best way of fighting the gangs is to make communities like Seaside more resilient and resistant to their influence.

"We can do that by setting up youth clubs," he said.

"It's about having activities that can then become early interventions for young people and substance misusers.

"These crime groups can move and change their tactics very fluidly and that again is another challenge for law enforcement.

"County lines is one of the top priorities for the force."

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