Who’s this guidance for?
This guidance is primarily aimed at frontline staff who work with children, young people and potentially vulnerable adults.
This includes professionals working in education, health, social care services, housing, benefits, law enforcement (police) and related partner organisations. This guidance is also useful for carers and parents, although they are not the primary audience.
It has been produced by the Home Office in co-operation with other Government Departments, National Crime Agency, Local Government Association, National Police Chiefs’ Council, Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London.
What’s this guidance for?
Criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults is a geographically widespread form of harm that is a typical feature of county lines activity. It is a harm which is relatively little known about or recognised by those best placed to spot its potential victims.
This guidance is intended to explain the nature of this harm to enable practitioners to recognise its signs and respond appropriately so that potential victims get the support and help that they need.
What is county lines exploitation?
County lines is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas and market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. It involves child criminal exploitation (CCE) as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. Gangs establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.
County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and missing persons; and the response to tackle it involves the police, the National Crime Agency, a wide range of Government departments, local government agencies and VCS (voluntary and community sector) organisations. County lines activity and the associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation have a devastating impact on young people, vulnerable adults and local communities.