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Child exploitationGangs

County Lines slang

Close-up of a young woman, taken from waist-height, as she looks at her phone. Her face is not visible. Overlaid is text that says: "Spot the Signs Poster Hub".

County Lines is a term used for a drug-dealing network from a city (“going country” / “going cunch“) base out into other areas, sometimes many miles from that city. The drugs are dealt using a phone line (this is the ‘County Line’) through calls, texts and social media. Vulnerable people’s homes (“cuckooing“) are used to establish a base for dealing in the local area. Often children are used to transport drugs (“drug mules” / “plugging“), move cash (“money mules” / “smurfer“) and store weapons.

The County Lines model involves the grooming, coercion and intimidation of vulnerable people to make them commit crimes on behalf of the criminal network. Control is maintained through drug dependency and physical, emotional and sexual abuse. This is a type of criminal exploitation. It involves human trafficking and modern slavery.

There are estimated to be over 1,000 County Lines operations in the UK.

Often, the language used to talk about County Lines is demeaning, glamourising, or victim blaming, masking the fact that this is exploitation and can wreck the lives of children and their families. We’re here to help prevent children’s exploitation and support children out.