County Lines | What Is It & What Are The Signs?
You may have seen the term ‘county lines’ being used a lot recently. Especially in relation to young people and children in foster care.
According to the Home Office, 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 forms 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.”
Gangs and organised crime networks target children, young people, vulnerable adults, the homeless and those trapped in poverty. Once they have identified a victim, gang members will use coercive methods to engage with them. Grooming, threatening behaviour and force are all common ways in which these children and young people are tricked in to trafficking drugs. Unfortunately, many who are unaware of the county lines crisis see these vulnerable individuals as criminals themselves.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
There are several signs that you can look out for, to help you identify if a child or young person is a victim of county lines. Some of them are listed below (courtesy of The Children’s Society):
- A child or young person 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
- 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 YOU CAN DO
If you have reason to believe a child or young person is in danger, contact the police immediately by dialling 999. If you have non-urgent information to share with the police, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If you are concerned about the welfare of a child in your care, contact your local social care department.
You can find lots more information on county lines on the Fearless website, by following this link: https://www.fearless.org/en/campaigns/county-lines