County Lines – know what it is and what to look for

County Lines – Know the signs

The Police have launched a campaign to raise awareness of County Lines and how the public can help spot the signs of such criminal activity ongoing in their community.

County Lines is a term used for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas and coastal towns using mobile phone lines, also known as ‘deal lines’.

This is a national trend and a method of drug dealing involving dangerous drug networks operating from the cities of London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham suppling the smaller towns and cities across the UK.

The Force’s County Lines lead, Detective Superintendent Antony Hart, said:

“This week we are launching our campaign into county lines and as part of our ongoing commitment in tackling this nationwide phenomenon, we are now appealing to the public to spot the signs within their communities.

“Our recent policing activity over the last year shows that our counties are not a safe haven for supply chains and anyone coming to the area intending to be involved in drugs will face prosecution.

“Over the past four years a dedicated team have developed intelligence, activity and methods to locate, arrest and detain drug suppliers. Their practices in the recovery of drugs concealed by dealers has been independently reviewed and regarded as the best in the country.

“Year-on-year the team have increased the number of arrests and successful prosecutions reaching an all-time high in 2017. This year the methods and practices have been rolled out to all police officers working in across the two counties and as a result the targeting of drug suppliers has become business as usual for all staff.

“Neighbourhood teams and response officers are regularly patrolling areas that are used for ‘street dealing’ creating an environment where there is no safe place left to hide.

“County lines gangs will often target children and young people aged between 15-years-old and 16-years-old, women and vulnerable adults to deliver drugs and money between locations.

“An operating base is also an essential feature of county lines gangs who regularly exploit vulnerable people, by building up a debt or using threats of violence in order to take over a person’s home, a practice is known as ‘cuckooing’.

“Police have worked to identify people who may be either susceptible to or victims of drugs networks who use their homes to ‘set-up shop’. Once into the address drug dealers use this as a base to run their activity for short periods of time before moving on.

“Any address that has previously been used is entered onto a database and then visited by Neighbourhood teams. This relies on efficient rapports between local partners, housing providers and tenants. The process is be managed throughout by providing opportunities for rehabilitation and rehousing to break the cycle of vulnerability and offending where relevant.

“By consistently visiting people in our community we aim to mitigate instances of repeat cuckooing and continue to build intelligence to ensure that other people are not put at risk of harm from Organised Crime Gangs.

“We have continued to keep up this level of activity and in 2018 have continued to visit addresses where ‘live’ cuckooing is suspected as taking place.

“We accept the issue of county lines is not going away but we are sending out a clear message that we will continue to evolve and tackle this to make our cities and surrounding towns and villages a safe place for our community.”

Signs to look out for

A young person’s involvement in county lines often leaves signs, below are some of the indicators of county lines involvement and exploitation:

• Has a child or young person gone missing from home or school?
• Have they acquired money, clothes or mobile phones they can’t account for?
• Are they meeting unfamiliar adults?
• Are they in excessive receipt of texts or phone calls?
• Are they in relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association?
• Do you have suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries?
• Has there been a significant decline in school performance and significant changes in emotional well-being?

Gangs may also target women who tend to be drug users or have engaged in a relationship with a gang member. They can become victims of sexual and domestic violence and can also be coerced into delivery drugs or money for the gang.

Vulnerable adults who are in financial difficulties or have mental health problems are usually the most likely victim of cuckooing.

What can you do?

If you have concerns surrounding children, follow safeguarding procedures and share your concerns with local authority social care services.

If you are being effected by any of the above or know someone who is then contact police via or by calling 101.

Alternatively you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Further information on County Lines can be found on the police’s website.

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