County lines: What does it mean and what are the signs that it's happening near me?

What does ‘County Lines’ mean?

The term county lines is used when drug gangs from big cities like Manchester and Liverpool use violence and intimidation to expand their networks to smaller towns, in particular suburban areas. The drug dealers exploit and use children and vulnerable people to sell their drugs.

The dealers also use dedicated mobile phone lines, known as ‘deal lines’ to take orders from drug users.

Who is most at risk?

The National Crime Agency says dealers will mainly target children and adults – often with mental health or addiction problems to act as drug runners.

In some cases the gangs take over the homes of vulnerable or drug-addicted people, using their property as a drugs base. Often these people can be trafficked to areas a long way from their homes as part of the gang’s business.

What are the signs that County Lines drug dealing is happening where you are?

The National Crime Agency has issued to signs to look out for if you think county lines drug dealing is happening in your area.

These include:

  • An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat

  • New faces appearing at the house or flat

  • New and regularly changing residents (e.g different accents compared to local accent

  • Change in resident's mood and/or demeanour (e.g. secretive/ withdrawn/ aggressive/ emotional)

  • Substance misuse and/or drug paraphernalia

  • Changes in the way young people you might know dress

  • Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable new things (e.g clothes, jewellery, cars etc)

  • Residents or young people you know going missing, maybe for long periods of time

  • Young people seen in different cars/taxis driven by unknown adults

  • Young people seeming unfamiliar with your community or where they are

  • Truancy, exclusion, disengagement from school

  • An increase in anti-social behaviour in the community

  • Unexplained injuries

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