The independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers is working alongside the region’s four forces on the campaign, which seeks to raise greater public awareness of the issue.
Its regional manager, Gemma Gibbs, said: “We know the issues are there and they are being reported, but the potential of them being much more widespread than the police understand is actually quite steep.
“Until people know what to look out for, they don’t know necessarily what’s happening.
“The idea is to raise awareness in the rural areas of the problems you might see in cities.”
The campaign will provide information about how the ‘county lines’ model works and some of the tactics associated with it such as ‘cuckooing’, where the homes of vulnerable people are taken over by drug dealing networks.
“It may be that they identity someone that’s vulnerable within the community whether it’s because of mental health issues or financial difficulties,” Miss Gibbs said. “They’ll spot whatever it is with that individual. The gangs don’t care what they’re doing in those communities, but it’s about the impact on those individuals.”
Signs that ‘cuckooing’ may be taking place include people coming and going at strange times, an increase in anti-social behaviour or drug use at a particular property, signs of new people living or staying there, or an occupant who is usually out and about in the community not being seen.
The campaign will also highlight the risk of young people being coerced into drug dealing.
Miss Gibbs said: “We don’t want to scare people, but we do want people to understand the crime. Unless they’ve been informed by police that there’s an issue, they wouldn’t know what to look out for.
“We want communities to feel safe where they live and work; let their children out to play, and not have to worry about this kind of violence on display.”
Call Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.