County Lines is a form of criminal exploitation that takes place when gangs/groomers/criminals befriend children on and off line with a view to them being manipulated into drug dealing. The children groomed into this activity are usually issued with phones (the "lines" refers to teh phone use) to make them accessible to the main dealers and can often be asked to cross into neighbouring authorities to deliver drugs/money etc. on behalf of the main dealers. Primary children are easy targets as they are less likely to be caught – the manipulation may start with simple keeping watch activities and then escalate to managing weapons stashes, money and being a drug courier.
Children exploited in this way are victims and not criminals with intent, but they are becoming involved with crime.
Parents/other adults can look for early warning signs
- Is the child travelling alone in a place they would not normally be and/or at a time when they should not be?
- Is the child active during school hours but not in school?
- Do they seem lost or unfamiliar where they are?
- Do they have a phone that you have not provided them with? Are they receiving excessive messages on their own phone and reluctant to share?
- Do they have money that you have not given them?
- Is the child hanging out with older pupils or adults?
- Is the child under the influence of substances?
- Has the child’s behaviour changed – are they anxious, more frightened than usual, making you worried?
- Does the child have a bankcard that does not belong to them?
- Do they suddenly have expensive things that a “friend” has given them?
- Are they being controlled or instructed by an older child or adult?
- Are they using new and unusual vocabulary that has criminal links?
- Is the child more aggressive that usual with you or others?
- Is the child visiting houses where they have no known relative or friendship connection?
- Does the child have bruises, marks, bites that they cannot explain?