A POLICE boss has said the battle against 'county lines' drug dealing is pulling resources from other important areas.

Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police Francis Habgood has said the significant resources poured into tackling serious drug crime means other areas must make do with less.

He was speaking at a recent meeting of the police and crime panel during a conversation about the impact cuts to the force have on crime.

Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s lead on community safety, asked at the meeting whether Thames Valley Police bosses agreed with Met Police chief Cressida Dick’s assertion that police cuts could be linked to a recent rise in violent crime.

Mr Habgood said that the important thing was not whether lack of policing had caused the surge - but the ability of forces to respond to the increase.

He added: “We have put significant resources into dealing with the county lines issue. That takes resources out of other areas.

“But you can’t afford not to deal with the county lines issue. You’ve seen the consequences if we don’t.”

His response revealed the significant strain that the force is under when battling the modern crime trend.

County lines dealing involves organised crime gangs moving from major cities like London and Birmingham into county locations throughout the country.

It also typically involves the exploitation of children or vulnerable people.

Mr Hayes agreed with Mr Habgood’s comments that the force could not afford not to tackle county lines.

He said: “The police are doing their best to protect communities, but crime is rising in volume, growing in complexity, and becoming more violent, as county lines shows.

“Drug gangs are enslaving vulnerable adults, abusing young people in the most awful way, and growing the business of dealing in our neighbourhoods.

“I 110 per cent back Mr Habgood in prioritising county lines and my council is funding two PCSOs to end drugs slavery.

“But, my council has also been supporting the police by saying—and the police commissioner must start saying this to his Home Secretary—that frontline officers cannot go on indefinitely without making very tough choices very soon.

“Either the police gets a lot more money or the scope of their mission will have to reduce. Nobody wants to see a Thames Valley where budget starvation forces officers to take more risks with what they police. In that world our communities will simply become more and more unsafe.”

Earlier this month the Oxford Mail reported on comments from Craig O’Leary, chairman of Thames Valley Police Federation, who suggested forces had ‘woke up too late’ to county lines dealing.

He said: “County drug lines are here and now and I think we’ve almost woken up to it too late.

“I think we’re doing great work to protect vulnerable people and get drug dealers who prey on the vulnerable out of people’s homes – but it is now a massive task.”

At the start of the year, police in Oxford names county lines dealing one of its key priorities for the year.