What is County Lines?

The UK Government definition, taken from the Serious Violence strategy states: “County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.”

What are the alering signs that someone is a victim of criminal exploitation and involved in county lines?

  • Missing from school or home, an unwillingness to explain their whereabouts and/or being found in areas they have no obvious connections with (out-of-area).
  • School exclusion(s) and/or a significant decline in school attendance, results or performance,
  • Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being, personality or behaviour;
  • Anti-social behaviour or involvement in other criminality; and
  • Use of drug and county lines-related slang (see further resources).
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones.
  • Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls and/or having multiple sim cards or handsets – this could be a ‘burner phone’, often an older model which uses an unregistered sim card, but it may also be a smart phone which can utilise web-based apps without a phone number.
  • Carrying or storing weapons.
  • Misuse of substances or possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia such as discarded needles, scales, small snappy bags or cling film.
  • Possession of train tickets for unusual train journeys.
  • Possession of a rucksack or a bag that they are very attached to or will not put down.
  • Relationships with controlling/older individuals or groups; and
  • Isolation from usual peers or social networks.
  • Suspicion of physical assault/unexplained injuries – these tend to be visible but minor injuries which are issued as a threat, such as cigarette burns or small cuts, but can also be much more serious life-threatening injuries, such as stab wounds.
  • Spending increased or unusually excessive amounts of time online day and night;
  • Building inappropriate relationships online or appearing anxious or secretive about their online activities and who they are communicating with;
  • Unexpected or excessive sharing of personal information online, such as full name, address, or phone number;
  • Experiencing bullying, harassment or threats online; and
  • Receiving or sending money, gifts or gaming tokens/coins to someone online.