What does County Lines mean?
County lines is a form of criminal exploitation where urban gangs persuade, coerce or force children and young people to store drugs and money and/or transport them to suburban areas, market towns and coastal towns (Home Office, 2018). It can happen in any part of the UK and is against the law and a form of child abuse.
Who can be involved?
Children can be vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation for a wide range of factors from living in poverty to a desire to earn “street cred” amongst their peers. It can also be carried out under the threat of severe violence or intimidation. Typically, gangs use mobile phone lines to facilitate drug orders and supply the users. They also use local property as a base; these often belong to a vulnerable adult and are obtained through force or coercion (known as ‘cuckooing’).
The County Lines process is now understood as a driving causal factor in youth violence and, in some cases, includes elements child trafficking. An updated report by the National Crime Agency (NCA) has found that the use of ‘county lines’ by gangs, is a growing issue, and is exploiting ever-younger victims.
Signs and signals of County Lines or other forms of criminal exploitation include:
- 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
- Having a second, old phone (i.e. not a smart phone)
- 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.
What should you do if you suspect a girl or boy is involved in County Lines or other gang activities?
If parents suspect a boy or girl is involved in County Lines or other gang activities, they should report this as a child protection issue to a member of the designated safeguarding team:
- Mr Grogan (Headteacher) is the Designated Safeguarding Lead
- Mr Taylor-Graham (Deputy Headteacher) is a Deputy Safeguarding Lead
- Mr Bowman (Assistant Headteacher) is a Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead
- Miss Shettle (Inclusion Leader) is a Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead
Alternatively, parents can report concerns directly to the Police or to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).
Members of the public should report County Lines or related concerns to the police or to MASH.
Telephone: 020 8871 6622 or 020 8871 6000 (after 5pm weekdays or on weekends)