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County Lines: Just the facts

County lines refers to illegal drugs being moved across the country.

The drugs usually cross local authority boundaries. Young people and children as young as eight are often used to transport the drugs and anyone can be affected, regardless of background or gender.

The ‘county line’ is the mobile phone line used to take orders.

Criminal groups see young or vulnerable people as easy targets to exploit. They might begin to entice young people into their group by offering them gifts, such as money or drugs, in return for small ‘favours’ such as ‘keeping watch’. This can then move on to bigger and more dangerous favours such as keeping hold of illegal items like drugs or weapons.

Some young people might initially feel like respected members of these gangs, when they are actually being controlled and intimidated by them.

Gangs keep young people involved by making them feel as though they are trapped. This can be very frightening. The young person can think they have no way out and might be threatened with or subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

The gangs may also threaten harm to a person’s friends and family, or make them think that they owe them money and force them to work to pay off the debt.

County lines gangs are known to be very dangerous; some may threaten and attack rival gang members to try and remove them from the area. A large number of stabbings and acid attacks are committed by those involved with county lines.

How will I know someone is being exploited?

You might notice they:

  • Have unexplained injuries such as cuts or bruises that they do not want to talk about
  • Have an unexplained amount of money or other expensive items
  • Increase their use of drugs or alcohol
  • Go missing from home or become absent from school without an explanation
  • Have a new, previously unknown group of friends
  • Become anxious if they cannot access or answer their phone
  • Have more than one mobile phone. A phone used for selling or moving drugs might be referred to as a ‘trap line’ or ‘burner’

What should I do if I think I, or someone I know, might be being exploited by criminals?

Visit to report exploitation 100% anonymously. This means that no one will know who has reported the crime and the young person being exploited will not be treated as a criminal.

If you think a young person you know could be in immediate danger call 999, or if you have non-urgent information to share with the police, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Glossary of terms used by individuals associated with county lines

  • Trapping – transporting or selling drugs.
  • Going country – the act of moving drugs to a rural area outside of a city, this job is often given to exploited young people who carry the risks of moving the drugs. This might also be shortened to “going cunch” or “gone cunch”.
  • Cuckooing – taking over the house or property of a young or vulnerable person for the purpose of selling and/or manufacturing drugs such as crack cocaine.
  • Trap house – a house from which drugs are sold or manufactured. This can also be known as a “bando”.
  • Trap line – a phone from which drugs are sold, often carried by the young person being exploited.
  • Shotter – a drug dealer

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.

Cross Hatch

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