CUMBRIA’S police and crime commissioner has hit out at the “insidious” creep of organised crime into Cumbria.

Peter McCall, the county’s PCC, said residents should be under “no illusion” that organised inner-city drug dealers are trying to get a foothold in the area.

But he praised the work of Cumbria Police which has carried out a series of raids recently to break the supply chain into the county.

Mr McCall told a meeting: “There has been an insidious increase in serious and organised crime, especially county lines drug dealing.

“It affects the big Metropolitan cities far more than us, but we should be under no illusion this is not happening here too.”

Mr McCall was speaking at a meeting of Eden Local Committee and mentioned the high number of heroin overdoses seen in Barrow last year.

“Everyone will have seen the news about the high rates of drug deaths in Barrow and they are all a tragedy,” he said.

“Every single one of them but it isn’t just Barrow.  We have county lines drug dealers trying to operate right across the county and into the rural areas as well.”

Mr McCall said the employment of 25 more police officers and plans to recruit a further 20 would help.

He said: “It would be fatuous that the 25 officers we recruited last year solved all the problems. The additional resource has led to 31 arrests of serious alleged drug dealers and those things don’t happen overnight. It’s the result of the unseen policing work since May. If we are going to lock these people away then we need the evidence to get convictions at court.”

Cllr Neil Hughes, the Liberal Democrat member for Eden Lakes, said “continued Government austerity” meant that crime commissioners were pushed into raising council tax on residents.

Cllr Hughes said: “You can’t keep asking the public for more than a reasonable amount. We are facing another significant council tax rise again this year.”

Recently, a meeting in Barrow was told that the number of drug deaths in the town had fallen into line with national averages.

Lesley Graham, public health manager for Barrow, reported that they had reduced after hitting 12 between December 2017 and April 2018.

She said: “One a month is still one too many for me, but that spike we experienced a year ago has been helped by the systems put in place to bring that down and work with vulnerable people.”