What is County Lines?
County Lines is the criminal process of establishing a network to rural areas, where gangs can expand their drug dealing activities from their central base (usually in big cities) to smaller areas to make more money. To do this, they take on "runners" who are responsible for moving drugs and money. Phone lines are used to communicate these plans, with "runners" often being given a specific phone to do this.
Why is County Lines considered an exploitation issue?
Gangs usually recruit young people to act as their "runners", who might be as young as 11 years old. A common recruitment tactic is grooming - the young person will be befriended and given gifts to build trust, before being asked to do something which is presented as an easy way to make money. Tasks given may be relatively easy and low-risk at first to draw the young person in. Eventually, however, the gang will start to ask more of the young person, e.g. moving money or drugs (often by train), or performing sexual acts for gang members. Young people who fall victim to this quickly start to feel trapped and "in too deep", often afraid to stop for fear of repercussions from the gang.
What are the signs that someone may be involved in County Lines?
- Are they always going missing from school or their home?
- Are they travelling alone to places far away from home?
- Do they suddenly have lots of money/lots of new clothes/new mobile phones?
- Are they receiving much more calls or texts than usual?
- Are they carrying or selling drugs?
- Are they carrying weapons or know people that have access to weapons?
- Are they in a relationship with or hanging out with someone/people that are older and controlling?
- Do they have unexplained injuries?
- Do they seem very reserved or seem like they have something to hide?
- Do they seem scared?
- Are they self-harming?
Where can I find out more?
This information is based on Fearless' County Lines information page, which can be accessed at https://www.fearless.org/en/campaigns/county-lines.
Fearless are a branch of Crimestoppers who conduct work with young people to raise awareness of issues such as County Lines, delivering workshops in schools and producing key resources for young people. Fearless also offer anonymous crime reporting through their website.