THE number of drug-related crimes in Colchester has increased by 25per cent over the past five years, according to latest figures.

It is believed the rise - which has coincided with a dip nationally and in large cities - is linked to the emergence of county lines where dealers and runners are sent from London to smaller towns where they believe there is a less congested market as well as an increase in Colchester’s population.

Analysis by the BBC showed there were 298 recorded drug crimes in 2013 - defined as offences involving either the supply or possession of illegal drugs.

Last year, there were 375 offences recorded in Colchester - the highest the total has been in the last five years - and an overall spike of 25per cent.

The majority of London boroughs all saw their drug crime figures reduce, including Havering which decreased by 45per cent, Barking and Dagenham which saw per cent drop and Enfield where there was a reduction of 42per cent.

Essex Police are using additional Home Office funding on Operation Sceptre which targets serious violence and has included extra intelligence-gathering patrols by Op Raptor teams, who specialise in targeting drug gangs

Last week, a drug dealer from London was jailed for more than three years after being caught with 72 wraps of crack or heroin inside his sock.

Errol Fairweather, of Hertford Road, Lower Edmonton, near Barnet, had driven from London to Colchester in December.

He was spotted by officers acting suspiciously in Caelum Drive, Colchester, and talking to a known drug user.

Police stopped him in Southway and found the sock stashed with Class A drug wraps.

He admitted possession with intent to supply crack cocaine and heroin and was jailed for 40 months.

Investigating officer Det Con Mark Peacock said Fairweather used drug money to fund his lifestyle and he and his colleagues were targeting dealers from outside the county.

He said: “This result shows our commitment to pursue criminals who think they can come into Essex to sell drugs or commit gang-related crime.

“You will be arrested and face justice.

“People like Fairweather blight communities by trying to exploit the vulnerable - the time he spends in prison will allow him to reflect on his actions.”