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 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).
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