County Lines

In this video, specialist safeguarding consultant, Andrew Hall, talks about county lines and why it is such an important issue for some young people.

County lines is the organised criminal distribution of drugs from the big cities into smaller towns and rural areas using children and vulnerable people. Although cannabis is occasionally linked to the county lines organisations, it is harder drugs that provide the focus: heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines.

The main county line gangs operate from London and Liverpool, but other groups work out of Reading, Birmingham, and Manchester. Faces from the cities are not known by police in the quieter areas and can operate more easily. At least for a time.

The influence of county lines is nationwide. Metropolitan Police have found gang members from Islington in 14 different police areas. Boys, typically 15 and 16, but sometimes younger, travel by coach, train, and taxi into rural or coastal area, with only a ‘burner’, or disposable phone, often stolen, and a stash of drugs. For the gang’s security each runner only knows one other phone number along the delivery chain.

The drug runner needs a place to stay and to do this the gang will take over the home of a vulnerable person, often after following them home. This is known as “cuckooing”. Once in the property, drugs and weapons can be stored there along with a possible venue for dealing drugs and the sexual exploitation of girls and young women.

Download the video and PowerPoint slides

Members of Safeguarding.Pro can download the video and presentation slides here: safeguarding.pro/countylines

Further Reading

Criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults: county lines (Home Office, 2017)

County Lines Gangs Violence, Exploitation and Drug Supply (National Crime Agency, 2016)​

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