MIDDLE class drug users sniffing cocaine at the weekend are part of the trade that saw more than 60 arrested last week in a county-wide push to tackle dangerous drugs gangs.

Drugs squad chief Det Insp Paul Franklin said the powder cocaine and crack or heroin markets were very distinct.

But he added: “Does that fuel the crack market? They’re linked. I can’t say they’re not linked.

“The money ultimately goes back to the same place.

“Everybody is playing their part.

“They [middle-class recreational drug users] do bear some responsibility, if not directly.”

The comments echo those of senior politicians including prime minister Boris Johnson.

During the Tory leadership race in June the former Mayor of London said: “Middle-class drugs use in this country by kids is helping to encourage the dissemination of these drugs and gangs across the country and costing the lives of so many.”

Drug dealing in smaller towns and cities by metropolitan gangs is nothing new.

But police forces have seen the number of so-called County Lines boom, as gang members from London, Birmingham and Liverpool search for untapped markets in places like Swindon.

The “Line” refers to the phone number addicts call to order drugs – usually heroin or crack cocaine.

They have snappy names like Daz or Lucky. The National Crime Agency estimates there were 1,000 branded lines across Britain last year. In Swindon alone the number is between 30 and 37.

Gangs will typically take over local addicts’ homes and coerce vulnerable adults and children into selling the drugs on their behalf.

It is not unknown for children to be trafficked across the country to resupply the local network with crack cocaine or heroin. Last Tuesday, police found a 17-year-old London boy in Swindon who had been reported missing by his parents four days earlier.

In an effort to step up pressure on city and Swindon drugs gangs, detectives last week made more than 60 arrests. Almost all of those suspects were arrested on suspicion of dealing class A drugs. They ranged in age from 16 to 58.

Det Insp Franklin said the week of police action went well.