GANGS from Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Liverpool are targeting Shropshire as they aim to infiltrate the county with drugs.

Andrew Gough, Shropshire’s Safer Communities group officer, said he was concerned with how many gangs are operating in the county, recruiting young and often vulnerable people to deal drugs as part of county lines.

He told a meeting of Shropshire Council’s Communities Overview Committee, that it was of major concern to authorities.

He said: “We are seeing many gangs coming in from the big cities and infiltrating our communities.

“They are coming from the likes of Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Liverpool mainly.

“They are setting up County Lines drug rings.

“We are seeing young people moving in and recruiting young and sometimes vulnerable people to help them sell drugs in rural communities.”

The issue of County Lines is a major one facing West Mercia Police.

Councillor Cecelia Motley said Shropshire traditionally didn’t have a gang culture given its rural nature but said she was concerned about the gangs from away coming in, comments echoed by Councillor Vivienne Parry.

Earlier this year, West Mercia Police Superintendent Mo Lansdale, said it was a major issue facing the force.

She said: “Serious organised crime is far-reaching and there are some many areas it touches.

“So many areas people will find to exploit and take advantage of people, and, not always but money is often at the heart of it.

“You might have a vulnerable person who normally lived on their own and suddenly they have people you don’t recognise coming and going.

“They move in and exploit that person, use their property to potentially deal drugs from, use the person to run errands for them, they might even exploit them to the extent they are taking their money and benefits from them.

“That person is being exploited but may find it very difficult to get out of that situation due to threats being made to them.

“If that is someone local living in your community you may notice the changes – maybe they were living on their own, suddenly they have got lots of people visiting the house, they are more insular, they may not appear physically well.

“We have the powers to tackle that but we need the information coming in so that we can deal with it.

“These people befriend them from the off, they will give them gifts, but very quickly that relationship will change and they become the exploiter.”