The police compare the spread of the county lines gangs to that of Japanese knotweed, and the metaphor is apt. Like that notoriously invasive and damaging plant, once this form of drug dealing takes hold it spreads like wildfire and is extremely difficult to eradicate.
But eradicate it we must, for these drug gangs cannot be allowed to take root.
They deal in death, addiction and misery, ruining lives and fuelling crime.
Destroying the gangs will be easier said than done, even though the police have the wholehearted backing of the Prime Minister, who vowed last month to “totally wind up” the problem.
The stealthy nature of how the gangs operate is at the heart of the difficulty in bringing them to justice.
They exploit and entrap the young via social media, and whilst they are travelling to and from school, consequently operating under the radar of parents who are unaware their children are being drawn into the darkest of worlds.
Yet by concerted action involving the police, families and communities, our young can be spared this.
Police forces need to co-operate closely as gangs move across their areas, and there must be a Government commitment to provide whatever additional resource and funding is required.
Communities must play their part, too, remaining vigilant for suspicious behaviour such as houses being cuckooed for drug dealing, and reporting it.
And parents need to wake up to the awful possibility of their children being drawn in.
Smashing the gangs will take time and effort, but it is a fight that must be won.