County Lines exploitation is when gangs and organised crime networks use vulnerable children, usually from urban areas, to courier drugs and money to suburban and rural locations.
Vulnerable children are targeted by gangs and groomed, threatened or tricked into trafficking drugs for them. The gangs use mobile phone lines to facilitate their activity and use a local property as a base; these often belong to a vulnerable adult and are obtained through force or coercion (known as cuckooing).
The County Lines process is now understood as a driving causal factor in youth violence and, in some cases, includes elements of child trafficking. An updated report by the National Crime Agency (NCA) has found that the use of ‘county lines’ by gangs, is a growing issue, and is exploiting ever-younger victims.
What are the signs of criminal exploitation and county lines?
- 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
- Having a second, old phone (i.e. not a smart phone)
- 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.
Reporting to the police
The School notes that when a report is made to the police they are not able to offer general advice on incidents. If the children involved are named or specifics are provided they are duty-bound to record and investigate all criminal activity reported.
What should you do if you suspect a girl or boy is involved in County Lines or other gang activities?
Members of staff should report this as a child protection issue to the Designated Safeguarding Leads. Parents/carers should raise concerns with the relevant year team/s who can take advice on what next steps to take. Alternatively, parents/carers can report concerns directly to the police or to MASH.
Members of the public should report County Lines or related concerns to the police or to MASH (0345 606 1499).
For further support and guidance:
Call 999 – if there is immediate danger to someone, crime is in progress, you need police help immediately, someone is using violence or threatening violence, serious damage is or could be caused to property a potential criminal has been disturbed or stopped.
Call 101 – to report a crime that has already happened, seek crime prevention advice or make the police aware of any policing issues in your area.
Online reporting form on police website to include reporting non-urgent crimes including making the police aware of any policing issues in your area. www.suffolk.police.uk/contact-us/report-something
Customer First – Emergency safeguarding concerns call 03456 066 167.
www.suffolk.police.uk/advice/crime-prevention-z – A-Z of crime prevention advice.
www.suffolk.police.uk/advice/gangs-information-and-advice – including advice for parents, young people, further help (links to other agencies) and leaving a gang.
Crime Stoppers – 0800 555 111anonymous 24/7 phone number, that people can call to pass on information about crime; alternatively people can send information anonymously via Giving Information Form. You don’t have to give your name or any of your personal details. Calls are not tracked, IP addresses are not tracked. https://crimestoppers-uk.org/
Fearless.org – www.fearless.org/en Secure online form to give information about a crime 100% anonymously. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Missing People SafeCall service – Missing People is the only charity in the UK which is dedicated to bringing missing children and adults back together with their families. www.missingpeople.org.uk
SafeCall Telephone: 020 8392 5710
SafeCall E-mail: SafeCall@missingpeople.org.uk
24/7 Helpline: 116 000
24/7 Helpline E-mail: email@example.com
Suffolk Safegurading Children Board
The Children’s Society – If you’re a parent worried about your child being criminally exploited, you can read their guidance.
NSPCC – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0808 800 5000
Family Lives – Confidential helpine: 0808 800 222
The Parent Hub – The Parent Hub on Suffolk County Council’s website, is a source of parenting advice and support for parents and carers to help with their children’s development. For more information please visit: www.suffolk.gov.uk/children-families-and-learning/the-parent-hub