THE MP for Andover has praised police forces for a successful “intensification” week of county lines crackdown, saying it is a particular “focus” for Hampshire officers.

From October 11 to 17, officers across England and Wales conducted “a week of intensification” which saw nearly 1,5000 arrests made, as well as the recovery of multiple weapons and £1.3m in cash, and the safeguarding of more than 2,000 vulnerable young people being exploited by county lines networks.

“We have been, for the last 18 months, really concentrating on taking out county lines, reducing the number across the whole of England and Wales,” Mr Malthouse said, in an interview with the Advertiser.

“We have been very much coming at it from a business point of view, because while they are criminal activities, county lines are businesses. Police have managed to develop intelligence technology and looking at the use of mobile phones, allowing them to identify individuals involved.”

Kit explained that the operations have been coordinating actions on import sides of the networks, such as in Liverpool and London, and exporting, or distribution, which is predominately the issue facing Hampshire.

“This allows them to take out both ends of the business,” he said.

“These weeks of intensification are very good to communicate to the public what we are doing.

“The police are estimating that we started two years ago with over 2,000 county lines, and now they are down to about 600. We have made a big impact.”

Stressing the local impact, Mr Malthouse added: “We have had our fair share of drug problems in Andover and I think the people of the town will be glad to know of the work we are doing.

“Certainly in towns like Andover, it has sadly brought violence and degradation and now we are putting it back in its place. We know that drugs, and county lines, are at the source of other crimes.”

He said that drugs are behind approximately 50 per cent of murder cases nationally, as well as other incidents linked with drug networks and addiction, including violence, and shoplifting.

“It is at the heart of so much criminal activity that we think, by attacking this business, reducing the supply as much as we can while at the same time working on rehabilitation on the other side of things, we can see overall crime drop.”

He added that county lines have been “a big point of concentration for Hampshire”.

“I know that the chief constable is very focussed on this issue, as it's the bringer of much misery to the county,” he said.

“But now we are winning, so now is the time to put our foot on the accelerator and really finish the job.”

Hampshire Constabulary has released its regional statistics as part of the wider programme, which see 43 arrested, including seven people under 18.

In Hampshire, 49 vulnerable people, including children, were engaged for safeguarding activities.

Of these, 28 were adult males, 13 were adult females, and a further eight were juveniles.

During the intensification week, £50,272 cash was seized in the county , as well as three Rolex watches which have yet to be valued

Detective Inspector Lee Newman, county lines regional coordinator for the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU), said: “County Lines drug dealing and associated criminality causes immeasurable harm to our communities, putting the most vulnerable in society at risk from exploitation.

“SEROCU works closely with police forces and partnership agencies in the south east to ensure staff have access to the specialist resources and training to target offenders. We work collaboratively to safeguard victims of these offences and to ensure those who exploit them face justice. We also work closely with prisons to disrupt those involved in County Lines activity.”