What Is County Lines?
Criminal exploitation is also known as ‘county lines’ and is when gangs and organised crime networks groom and exploit children to sell drugs. Often these children are made to travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs.
Children as young as 7 are being put in danger by criminals who are taking advantage of how innocent and inexperienced these young people are. Any child can be exploited, no matter their background.
How are children being exploited?
Criminals are deliberately targeting vulnerable children – those who are homeless, experiencing learning difficulties, going through family breakdowns, struggling at school, living in care homes or trapped in poverty.
These criminals groom children into trafficking their drugs for them with promises of money, friendship and status. Once they’ve been drawn in, these children are controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse, leaving them traumatised and living in fear.
However they become trapped in criminal exploitation, the young people involved feel as if they have no choice but to continue doing what the criminals want.
What are the signs of criminal exploitation and county lines?
- Returning home late, staying out all night or going missing
- Being found in areas away from home
- Increasing drug use, or being found to have large amounts of drugs on them
- Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
- Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work
- Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery
- Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
- Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
- Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled
- Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places.
More information about County Lines as well as parenting resources can be found here.