County lines is an epidemic sweeping the country, taking with it the innocence of youngsters who fall in with the "wrong crowd".

Many are recruited, moved across the country - over county lines - put up in hotels or told to sleep on makeshift beds in empty flats by "bosses" ordering them to peddle drugs.

Hull is one of the cities linked into the county lines network operating across Yorkshire, with youngsters sent here - and towns in East Yorkshire - to flood our streets with drugs.

They are paid a pittance for their dealings and are told to report to someone higher up the chain or to meet a shadowy figure to exchange the money for more drugs.

And when they're caught? More often than not they are forgotten about by their "bosses" and the unknown figures at the top get someone else in to do the same job, often going unpunished for their part in the crimes.

They have become colloquially known as the "kids from Bradford", but our court coverage shows young recruits hail from other parts of Yorkshire too.

Predominantly they are from the west and south of the county. Their ages range from genuine "kids", under 18, to those in their twenties.

No single recruit has the same background, but most have some sort of vulnerability making them ripe pickings for gang leaders to coerce them.

The National Crime Agency describes county lines as "where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries, although not exclusively, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs".

They say: "The 'county line' is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs. Importing area (areas where the drugs are taken to) are reporting increased levels of violence and weapons-related crimes as a result of this trend."

Earlier this year, Humberside Police launched Operation Wilberforce to try to stop modern day slavery in our area after noticing an increase in crime linked to "County Lines" dealing.

And over the past year, there have been a large amount of young men appearing in the dock at Hull Crown Court after being charged with a variety of drug offences.

Here are just some of those men. The very youngest, those under 18, can not be identified for legal reasons.

Khyle Holdsworth

Khyle Holdsworth
Khyle Holdsworth

Homeless Holdsworth, 22, of Lister View in Bradford was forced to work as a "store manager" for a county lines street dealing operation in Bridlington.

After being asked to deal drugs for the operation a number of times, Holdsworth relented and "looked after" a property holding an amount of class A drugs and cash in Bridlington, while dealers flooded the seaside town's streets with drugs.

When he was arrested, Holdsworth was found to be in possession of 200 individual deals of cocaine and heroin.

Judge David Tremberg described Holdsworth's role within the county lines operation as a "warehouse" or "store manager."

Read the full story here.

Kai Stones and Mark Calvert

Teenagers Stones and Calvert were sent 70 miles from west Yorkshire to Hull to deal drugs from a hotel room.

The pair, both 18, were booked into the Anry Hotel in Louis Street, west Hull, by a "mature man" on January 5 this year.

They stayed at the hotel, a base for the drug-dealing enterprise, until police received intelligence and arrested them just four days later.

The pair were getting into a taxi when they were apprehended.

Officers found crack cocaine and heroin totalling £950 on Stones and heroin worth £200 on Calvert.

A further search of their room found over 35g of crack cocaine and 131 wraps of heroin.

Read the full story here.

Lewis O'Donnell

Lewis O'Donnell
Lewis O'Donnell

O'Donnell, 18, from Bradford, was ferried 70 miles to Hull to sell drugs.

He was caught after police spotted him leaving a property in Spring Bank, west Hull, in February this year.

Undercover officers were actually following a different male who entered the same Spring Bank property. It was at 4.20pm that O'Donnell was let out of the flat and followed. Officers saw him making an exchange and he was arrested.

Police seized O'Donnell's phone, £26.10 in cash, a quantity of heroin and a set of keys. Officers then forced their way into the Spring Bank flat and found the first man hiding in the bedroom and a bag containing crack cocaine and heroin.

O'Donnell's phone was analysed by police and showed evidence of drug dealing.

Read the full story here.

Hammad Khan

Hammah Khan
Hammah Khan

Khan, 19, was jailed earlier this year after Humberside Police officers caught him with 93 small packages of crack cocaine in an intimate area.

The man, from Bradford, was caught after travelling to Hull by train.

He pleaded guilty to seven drug offences and possession of an offensive weapon, namely a large sheaf knife of around 10 inches in length, which he claimed he was carrying "for protection."

Khan was taken to Clough Road police station and an intimate search was conducted, whereby he was found to be carrying 93 small packages of crack cocaine, 47 packages of heroin and a mobile phone.

The phone contained a stream of messages all relating to the supply of cannabis.

Police said Khan played a "management role", which he claimed he only got involved in after racking up cannabis debts.

Read the full story here.

Yousaf Dad

Yousaf Dad
Yousaf Dad

Aspiring barber, Dad, from Bradford, was caught after police spotted him meeting up with a known drug addict at a house in Spring Bank.

Enquiries were conducted and he was detained and found to be in possession of three wraps and a small amount of cash.

Police then searched the Trinity Hotel in Hedon Road after seizing a room key from Dad, 19.

Officers found both brown and white powder bagged up into wraps, of which there were 116 and £336.55 in money

Andrew Thomas Dallas, mitigating, told Hull Crown Court Dad arrived in Hull after being threatened with a "small cannabis debt".

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He said: "He was seen as a gatekeeper. He was not trusted to take anything back to Bradford.

"The man in control appeared to have sent him with the drugs to dealers in the broken down house, who were drug users, and were selling to fellow drug users.

"He was told to hand them the drugs and get the cash to a man from Bradford who came to take it off him to give him more drugs.

"He went for the weekend and was required to 'doss down' in the house, and on the second night he slept in the hotel, probably to use it as a safe place to keep the drugs and cash.

"He had no control over anything he was told to do."

Read the full story here.

Charles Turner

Charles Turner

Turner, 21, was caught when he travelled to Bridlington to "make a bit of money" after racking up a crack cocaine debt.

He was caught in possession of over 100 wraps of class A drugs after travelling over the South Yorkshire Police boundary from Conisbrough into Bridlington.

Police officers found Turner had three phones, some of which he admitted were given to him by those he was in debt to.

When interviewed, he expressed to officers that he wanted to "change his ways", saying his life had gone astray after his mum died when he was 13 and he developed an addiction to crack cocaine, racking up a drug debt.

Read the full story here.

Zaccai Chambers, Emile Riggon and Alban Rianga

Zaccai Chambers, Emile Riggon and Alban Rianga have been jailed at Hull Crown Court

Chambers, 18, Riggon, 19, and Rianga, 18, all from Leeds, were jailed after they travelled to flood Bridlington with thousands of pounds worth of drugs.

The three teens were spotted by police in the Lansdowne area of the seaside town and arrested.

Hull Crown Court heard how over £300 was found in Riggon's jean pockets, as well as £930 worth of class A drugs in his underpants.

In Rianga's underwear, police found 300 wraps of cocaine with a street value of over £3,000.

Shortly after the arrest, a member of the public handed a Lidl shopping bag in to police also containing £340 worth of cocaine.

The National Crime Agency says some signs to look out for include:

Chambers drove the trio to Bridlington in his Ford Fiesta in which police also found a stab vest and a series of mobile phones with texts indicative of drug dealing.

Charles Blatchford, defending Chambers and Rianga, said the case "bore all the hallmarks" of a county lines operation where the teenagers had been exploited by those "further up the chain" and were likely mules or drug runners.

He said the case indicated the problems some county lines operations have had because of lockdown, with gangs having to resort to sending dealers from cities like Leeds because of a lack of people out on the street selling in the local areas.

Read the full story here.

What is Humberside Police doing about it?

The force is working with partners, including the Humber Modern Day Slavery Partnership and the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull, to help victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking get the right support.

Andrew Smith, the co-coordinator at the Humber Modern Day Slavery Partnership said: "With county lines, the victim who is being exploited may show a change in behaviour, they may be getting new trainers or new mobile phones, or may have gone missing for a couple of days."

Detective Chief Inspector Christine Calvert, Humberside Police's modern-day slavery lead, said: "Although you may not see it, modern-day slavery exists in the Humberside Police area and often goes unnoticed in our local communities.

"Sadly, it's happening all around us in places we might usually visit, but it goes unnoticed.

"Slavery and trafficking is a growing concern across the entire Humber region."

If you suspect county lines in your area you should always call Humberside Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

If you are a young person who is worried about your involvement, or a friend's involvement in county lines you can also call Childline on 0800 1111.