A POLICE chief has said that the city’s drug market is “clearly” linked to the rising issue of knife crime.

Chief superintendent Nick May, divisional commander for Brighton and Hove, said ‘county lines’ operations, in which organised criminal networks export drugs out of bigger cities into smaller towns, are adding to problems with knives.

The gangs often exploit children and teens, using them to sell the drugs.

Mr May said: “We are not far from London so we are vulnerable, there is no doubt.”

He continued: “I don’t think we are any more attractive than many other seaside, provincial towns.

“It’s often driven by gang activities in London and by drug cartels, serious organised crime.

“There are rail links, you can get here easily.

“And the city is big enough that the market is there.

“It’s profit that brings people into particular towns and cities.”

He spoke following a series of stabbings involving teenagers in nearby towns over the last two weeks.

This included three 18-year-olds being stabbed in Goring, Worthing and Eastbourne.

He said: “We are not in denial around the fact that there is an issue around knife crime.

“It would be wrong to say all knife crime is linked to county lines.

“But there are times when it is.”

He said that it was “undeniable” that knife crime in Sussex had risen, although he said the rise was “slightly under the national average”, and he spoke of the reason for this.

He said: “Clearly it is linked to the drug market. It’s linked to the phenomenon of county lines, undoubtedly.

“But that is not the only cause, there are local drug markets and there always have been, as well as those coming in from the outside.”

Speaking yesterday, he said that one man had been arrested on Wednesday as police executed a warrant, with more than £30,000 worth of class A drugs seized at a house in Boundary Road, Hove.

He said: “We work really hard with the National Crime Agency, British Transport Police and the local authority to deal with county lines.”

He pointed to two 21-year-old who were arrested in King’s Road, Brighton, on Tuesday after officers saw the pair “acting suspiciously” in a car.

He said: “That was a pro-active spot and that is exactly what I want to see.

“I want the response teams and the prevention teams, every time they go out, to be looking for suspicious behaviour, people trying to keep out of their way.

“That’s one of the reasons we do have plain clothes officers. I think it’s relevant and reasonable for people to know that we do use those tactics.”

A study by the Rescue and Response County Lines Project found that Brighton had the second highest number of people linked to county lines activity with 121, second to Norwich with 167 and ahead of Portsmouth with 78.

Mr May said: “That may well be recording the fact that we are really good at identifying them.”

He added: “The fact that we have identified a large number of them actually demonstrates that we are pro-active, that we are arresting people, that we are identifying county lines and we are pressing them.”

He said the force is investing additional money in its road policing as well as stopping and searching any vehicles travelling to Brighton if they had been identified as being involved in county lines with Met police.

Chief supt May said: “We will stop them before they get into the city whenever we see them, and we obviously have a large network of cameras to facilitate this.”