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County Lines sees urban drug gangs, often from major cities, move into suburban areas and market and coastal towns, using a dedicated mobile phone number and vulnerable people to run their criminal operation.

Dealers will take advantage of and exploit vulnerable people, including children, to help move their drugs and money. In some cases they may also take over the homes of local vulnerable adults, in a practise known as ‘cuckooing’, and will then use that house as a base for their business in the area.

There are many different types of crime linked to County Lines, including violence, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and, of course, drugs offences. 

#LookCloser is a national campaign, which originated here in the East Midlands, and sees police and The Children's
encouraging the public to learn the signs of child exploitation and how to
report it if worried.


Possible signs of people being victimised by those running County Lines include:

  • Changes in behaviour

  • An unexplained amount of cash or new gifts such as clothes, jewellery, or expensive trainers

  • Owning a number of mobile phones

  • Unexplained and regular travel, including train and bus tickets and taxi receipts

  • Regularly going missing or skipping school

  • Physical signs of assault

  • Using new or different vocabulary, including slang words

If something doesn't feel right, don't wait, report it.
  • Call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency

  • You can also report to the police online. Only report your concerns when it is safe for you to do so, even if this is after the event that your concerns initially arose.  Do not attempt to intervene yourself. 

  • Text the British Transport Police on 61016 - If you are on a train, you can text the British Transport Police. Information on routes of travel, addresses, appearance, and behaviour of a child can all help to protect young people. 

  • Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 - If you have information on child exploitation and abuse or suspect it may be happening but want to remain completely anonymous, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers online or on the phone.

  • Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 - The NSPCC helpline is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support if you’re concerned about a child. 

Useful links:

Home Office County Lines Guidance

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