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Oct 7, 2018

County lines is a term coined to describe the criminal exploitation, by organised crime gangs, of children in the sale and distribution of drugs. Often these children are made to travel across counties to supply the drugs and use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to organise the “business”.

As The Children’s Society explains the crime gangs deliberately target vulnerable children – those who are homeless living in care homes or trapped in poverty. These children are unsafe, unloved, or unable to cope, and the gangs take advantage of this. The gangs groom, threaten or trick children into trafficking their drugs for them. They might threaten a young person physically, or they might threaten the young person’s family members. The gangs might also offer something in return for the young person’s cooperation – it could be money, food, alcohol, clothes and jewellery, or improved status – but the giving of these gifts will usually be manipulated so that the child feels they are in debt to their exploiter.

However they become trapped in county lines, the young people involved feel as if they have no choice but to continue doing what the gangs want and tragically the authorities often see and treat them as criminals rather than abused and exploited children which is what they are.