County lines drug dealers are in the crosshairs of Bishop's Stortford police
Bishop's Stortford police are playing a game of cat and mouse with the county lines drug dealers who target the town.
Sgt Mark Collins says that as soon as his officers cut off the sources of supplies, the offenders are replaced by new traffickers.
The comments came as East Herts' top cop, Chief Inspector Stuart Orton, and Sgt Collins gave town councillors an insight into the law and order issues they face and how they are tackling them.
Combatting county lines – when drug gangs from cities expand their operations to smaller towns, often using violence to drive out local dealers and exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs – is one of the team's priorities.
Ch Insp Orton said that he believed there was currently one main supply route. Dealers have been spotted most recently in the Cricketfield Lane and Barrells Down Road area. A vehicle linked to them has been identified and is being hunted.
Sgt Collins appealed to residents to be vigilant and share information with the police on 101: "Just one piece of intelligence may be the one that we need."
He explained: "There's so much money in this. If we have chased them out of Cricketfield Lane, I'm not naive enough to think they will not come back. Once we cut off two dealers already selling in Bishop's Stortford, another two will be sent in."
In response to a question from Cllr Tim Page about who the end users were, Ch Insp Orton said: "We cannot solve this by enforcement alone. In any affluent town, you have an existing market of people who are of an age who think it's perfectly acceptable to use cocaine on a social basis. We will tackle that as best we can."
Sgt Collins said that the last dealers busted had been selling to a 40-year-old woman who "wanted something for the weekend".
Both officers made it clear that working with the community and listening to their concerns were key to tackling the town's crime and disorder.
Officers are bracing themselves for an increase in thefts from vehicles as the nights draw in and a spike in anti-social behaviour around Hallowe'en. Thorley Park, St Michael's Mead and Snowley Parade, off Parsonage Lane, have already been identified as locations requiring special attention.
Ch Insp Orton paid tribute to the work Sgt Collins and team members like Police Community Support Officer Jordan Tooke have done to engage with the town's young people and reduce crime and anti-social behaviour through education.
Also, town councillors were told that police would resist any efforts to introduce further late-night drinking in Bishop's Stortford after a dramatic increase in town centre disorder in Hertford associated with venues open until 3am.
The chief inspector promised a "robust challenge to anything that increases demand".