A week of action to tackle 'county line' drug dealing has seen police target the gangs who use children to transport drugs vast distances from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.

This type of drug dealing exploits children and vulnerable adults who may have mental health or addiction problems. Generally victims are recruited by organised crime groups to supply and run drugs through violence and intimidation.

At one point police sniffer dogs converged on Burnham Station only a stone's throw from Slough, Maidenhead and Windsor - bringing home the grim fact that evil gangs are operating on peoples' doorsteps in Berkshire and Bucks.

Police also visited vulnerable people whose homes had been taken over by drug dealers in the past - a practice known as cuckooing, the subject of a targeted raid in the Dedworth area of Windsor only two years ago.

Officers have been working closely with schools to promote the welfare of students and make children and teachers aware how children can be exploited into child drugs exploitation.

During the week of action officers working across the Thames Valley arrested 72 people, seizing drugs including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, cash to the value of £85,652 cash and 113 mobile phones.

They carried out 144 visits to previous victims of cuckooing, 40 educational visits to schools and helped 77 vulnerable people including 15 children who had been targeted and terrorised by the gangs.

Thames Valley Police’s Detective Chief Superintendent Richard List, said: “We have been working with local authorities, charities and schools throughout the past week in order to safeguard vulnerable people, educate adults and children on the dangers of drugs exploitation and using a variety of methods to arrest and investigate those dealing drugs and bringing misery on our communities.

“Additionally we are asking communities to be aware of their neighbours, friends and young people they know for the signs them being exploited by drug dealers.

“If you think someone shows sign of mistreatment, or a child seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with the area they are in, then you can report your suspicions to Thames Valley Police on 101 or via our website.”