Phillip Allott made the comment following a series of arrests last week in an operation targeting county lines drug dealers.
North Yorkshire Police announced it had made 20 arrests over suspected crimes connected to county lines in the week of action, with £10,000 in assets and thousands of pounds’ worth of drugs seized.
County lines is the term given to drug dealing where criminals exploit vulnerable people – often children – into transporting drugs from large towns and cities into smaller towns, and takes its name from the phone lines used to advertise the sale of drugs.
Arrests were carried out in York, Harrogate, Whitby, Thirsk, Scarborough, and on the A1 motorway, while drugs seized included heroin, cannabis, pregabalin and a large quantity of suspected cocaine which – although still undergoing testing – is believed to be worth several thousands of pounds.
Police and crime commissioner Mr Allott said he “welcomed the arrests”, but that there should be “no illusions” about the scale of the challenge posed by “organised criminals who bring tragedy to communities and scar our society”.
He said: “Too many still believe that because North Yorkshire is picturesque and rural, drugs are not a problem here.
“They are – and we need to do even more to get them off our streets and protect the young people who are exploited by dealers who travel here, force them to sell drugs and cause untold damage to their lives and the lives of those who buy and take illegal substances because they’re easily available and under pressure to do so.”
As well as the arrests, officers made visits to 95 vulnerable people, from parents of children at risk of exploitation to victims of cuckooing – which is when drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person and use it at a base to sell and store drugs, while often using violence and intimidation to do so.
Chief Inspector Lorraine Crossman-Smith, who coordinated the operation, said: “The week of intensification has given us an opportunity to demonstrate the type of work that goes on around the force on a daily basis.
“I am pleased with the results that come in the wake of a number of recent convictions for drug dealing including a gang of 10 and a gang of four that targeted York, and a gang of five that plagued Scarborough.
“That said, it is not only about arrests and convictions, it’s also about protecting those who are affected by the violence and intimidation, helping them to break the cycle of addiction and moving them away from the harm that comes from being targeted by ruthless, organised criminals.
“We can’t do that alone, which is why working with our partner agencies such as housing and addiction services is so important.”
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