County lines is a police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas and market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phones or ‘deal lines’. It involves Child Criminal Exploitation because gangs use children and vulnerable people to move their drugs and money.
Gangs often establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice known as ‘cuckooing’.
County lines crosses various crimes including drugs, violence, gangs, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery and missing people.
Who is vulnerable to county lines exploitation?
- Children as young as 12 being exploited by gangs to courier drugs out of their local area (15-16 years is the most common age)
- Both girls and boys can be exploited
- Often gangs use social media to target children and young people
- Class A drug dealers are often targeted so that gangs can take over their homes (cuckooing)
How to spot possible victims
- Changes in behaviour
- Appears to have a number of mobile phones
- Unexplained bus or train tickets
- Truancy from school or going missing from home
- Unexplained gifts such as clothes, trainers and cash
- Signs of assault and malnutrition
If you have information about criminal gangs who have moved into your area, please let your local police force know, so that we can help to keep your communities safe.
Click here to report online, or dial 999 in an emergency.