A “FANTASTIC” year is how North Wales Police Chief Constable Carl Foulkes viewed his first year in the top role.

Since taking on the role, Mr Foulkes said his main aim in the job was to make North Wales one of the safest places in the UK.

However, he recognised there were “challenges” faced by the force, but that those challenges presented “opportunities” to tackle major issues and make changes.

Speaking to the press at force HQ in Colwyn Bay, with his Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett he said one of the biggest issues faced by his force was County Lines drugs.

County Lines describes drug gangs who expand city operations into smaller towns, often using violence, to drive out dealers and by exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs. They use dedicated mobile phone lines to sell drugs.

Mr Foulkes also acknowledged the difficulties of policing North Wales with its rural nature and geography.

He said the key to tackling the region’s criminal activity was through a “regional” approach and by “partnership working.”

He said “We are using various tactics and strategies to tackle County Lines drugs.

“It is our focus, as a force to make our communities safer.

“We are working with partners to tackle problems, we are using intelligence, as well as signposting to help support people impacted by drugs.

We are also calling on the public to help by being our eyes and ears by reporting criminal activity. We are also working actively to tackle drug driving, which more frequently than drink driving.”

“The growth in County Lines drug activity, which targets vulnerable people, with its associated violence, is also a major problem for the whole of the North Wales, and other forces, but exacerbated by the rural geography of the region.”

Tactics outlined include partnership working to target and safeguard vulnerable people and children, assessment of people at risk, identifying cuckooing - the practice of drug dealers taking over victims’ homes and lives, greater use of stop and search, more work with the British Transport Police, and ongoing tactics to disrupt drug activities within communities.

Mr Foulkes, a former Royal Naval aircraft engineer in the first Gulf Conflict, started his career in the British Transport Police in 1993. served in the West Midlands Force, was a former deputy Chief Constable for Merseyside, appointed made North Wales Police chief in in November, 2018, added “We have to stay ahead of the game.“We see the tentacles of organised crime and drugs gangs creeping across the region as far as Dolgellau and Pwllheli.

“We are dealing with this with a number of measures, from employing more officers, working more with British Transport Police,we will announce a new, live intercept team coming in in February, using more stop and search activity.”