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County Lines

‘County Lines’ is the term used for urban gangs who supply drugs to suburban areas using dedicated mobile phone lines.  The gangs, who are largely from urban areas such as London, Birmingham and Liverpool, use criminal exploitation, targeting vulnerable children and adults to move drugs and money.  The forms of abuse and exploitation used by these gangs involve force, enticement, fear, intimidation, threats of violence or debt bondage.

‘County Lines’ is an emerging national issue which poses a significant threat to communities and exploits the most vulnerable members of society.  The gangs will often use a local property, generally belonging to a vulnerable person as a base for their activity.  This is often acquired by force or coercion and is referred to as “cuckooing”.


What are the Signs to look out for?

There are a number of signs that may indicate a person’s involvement in county lines activity, these include:

  • Going missing and being found out of their home area.
  • Unexplained acquirement of money, clothes or mobile phones.
  • Receiving an excessive number of texts or phone calls.
  • Leaving home or care without explanation.
  • Suspicion of physical assault of unexplained injuries.
  • Carrying of weapons such as knives.
  • Isolation from friends or social networks.

The Home Office has produced promotional materials and guidance for frontline staff working with children, young people and adults who may be vulnerable and at risk, on how to recognise the signs and respond appropriately so that potential victims can be assisted to receive the help and support that they need.

The guidance and promotional material produced is available to download from the Home Office website:




What to do if you are concerned:

If you are a practitioner working with a vulnerable person who you think may be at risk of county lines exploitation, you should follow your local safeguarding guidance and share this information with the local authority Social Services.


If you believe a person is in immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police.

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