Child Criminal Exploitation

What is it?
Child Criminal exploitation is where an individual or group take advantage of a person under the age of 18 and draw them into criminal activity. Often referred to as ‘County Lines’.

What do I need to know?
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 form 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.

  • Drugs – County lines commonly involves the illegal distribution and dealing of seriously dangerous drugs from one city/town to another. The most common drugs involved are heroin and cocaine (crack and powder), but also MDMA, cannabis, amphetamines and spice.
  • Violence – Gangs sometimes use violence to threaten children and young people when recruiting them. Gangs also violently assault children and young people working for them if they find their drugs or money to be missing.  Weapons such as firearms, knives, bats, acid are sometimes used to make violent threats.
  • Exploitation – Gangs recruit and use children and young people to move drugs and money for them. Children as young as 11 years old are recruited, often using social media. They are exploited and forced to carry drugs between locations, usually on trains or coaches. They are also forced to sell drugs to local users.
  • Sexual Exploitation – Young girls are often groomed and forced into relationships with gang members and are made to perform sexual acts.

What are the potential indicators?
A young person’s involvement in county lines activity often leaves signs. A person might exhibit some of these signs, either as a member or as an associate of a gang dealing drugs.

  • Are they always going missing from school or their home?
  • Are they travelling alone to places far away from home?
  • Do they suddenly have lots of money/lots of new clothes/new mobile phones?
  • Are they receiving much more calls or texts than usual?
  • Are they carrying or selling drugs?
  • Are they carrying weapons or know people that have access to weapons?
  • Are they in a relationship with or hanging out with someone/people that are older and controlling?
  • Do they have unexplained injuries?
  • Do they seem very reserved or seem like they have something to hide?
  • Do they seem scared?
  • Are they self-harming?

Terms often linked with county lines:

Cuckooing -Cuckooing is when drug gangs take over the home of a vulnerable person through violence and intimidation, using it as their base for selling/manufacturing drugs.
Signs of cuckooing:

  • An increase in people coming and going
  • An increase in cars or bikes outside
  • Litter outside
  • Signs of drugs use
  • You haven’t seen the person who lives there recently or when you have, they have been anxious or distracted. 

Going Country – This is the most popular term that describes County Lines activity. It can also mean the act of travelling to another city/town to deliver drugs or money.

Trapping – The act of selling drugs. Trapping can refer to the act of moving drugs from one town to another or the act of selling drugs in one.

Trap House – A building used as a base from where drugs are sold (or sometimes manufactured). These houses usually are occupied by someone (usually adult drug users) but sometimes young people are forced to stay in trap houses.

Trap Line – This refers to when someone owns a mobile phone specifically for the purpose of running and selling of drugs.

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