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County Lines: What does it mean?

County Lines: What does it mean?

County lines is a term used to describe the criminal networks that use children and vulnerable people to transport drugs from urban to rural areas. A recent article by the BBC describes how thirteen people have been arrested as part of a police crackdown on county lines drug gangs.

 These gangs will exploit vulnerable people, especially children with mental health or addiction issues. They will recruit them into their service.

How do Organised Crime Groups use their Social media?

These groups will use social media to groom and recruit children for county lines exploitation. This can be done by following their accounts, sending them DM’s (direct messages), adding to groups and offering money early on to entice them.

What Organised Crime Groups post on social media:

  • Advertising by utilizing pictures of products, emojis, pricing lists
  • Tricking people with ‘fast cash’ scams to get people interested in helping
  • Advert for ‘workers’ to help push the drugs
  • Using hashtags with links to drugs
County Lines:  A Man and a Woman Having a Drug Deal Stock Photo


Cuckooing is the practice of taking control of the home of a vulnerable person, to use their premises for the dealing of drugs. They will more likely convince the owner by either paying for food, utilities or giving them free drugs.

These dealers will often target people who are lonely, isolated or suffer from addiction issues. They will use a property for a few weeks then move on to ensure they are not caught.

Debt Bondage

Organised crime groups will also use ‘debt bondage’ to intimidate and pressure young people to remain part of their syndicate. How they do is by offering them security, food and accommodation. To earn this they then demand that they work for them to pay this off, it is recognised as a form of slavery.

The Damage

The extent to county lines is very large in the UK, roughly making annually £500 million. A 2020 report from the home office discovered that county lines drug trade in the UK involved over 27,000 young people.

If you’re concerned that someone you know is being groomed into this or pressured to do so. Then please get in touch with Missing People’s SafeCall helpline.

These resources provide more information about county lines:


Toby Greenfield

Toby is our Learner Engagement Marketing Apprentice and is involved with all things social media and content development. He is also responsible for attending careers events and delivering presentations. Toby is dedicated to showcasing the apprenticeship opportunities available for individuals and businesses to embark upon.

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