County lines and the signs to look out for

Date published: 14 May 2019 10:58
Dated: 13 May 2019 12:27:57

Members of the public, parents, carers and teachers are being urged to familiarise themselves with the signs to spot in relation to child criminal exploitation and ‘county lines.’

County lines is where members of organised crime groups move children or vulnerable adults around the country, for the purpose of selling drugs, in a bid to expand their criminal network and enhance their profits. The term comes from the phone lines used between dealers in different areas.

Detective Chief Inspector Emma Wheatcroft, force lead for child criminal exploitation (CCE), explains: “Throughout this week we are raising awareness of the signs to spot in relation to child criminal exploitation and how you can help us to safeguard vulnerable young people and prevent them from becoming victims.

“Typically, it is young boys aged 15-17 who we see recruited by older men, to sell drugs on their behalf. However, it’s important to remember that anyone, including young girls and vulnerable adults, can be exploited.

“While we have seen a few cases of this occurring within the boundaries of South Yorkshire, it is still vastly under-reported and as such, we need to raise awareness to highlight the signs that someone could be being exploited by a gang member.”

County lines often involves the use of coercion, threats of violence or physical harm to force youngsters and vulnerable adults into conducting illegal activities.

DCI Wheatcroft continues: “A lot of the time, people being exploited may not see themselves as victims, for example if they are being given gifts or cash, therefore we all have a responsibility to spot the signs of CCE.

“Some of the signs of CCE/county lines to be aware of include:

* A significant change in behaviour
* New group of friends who are older and encouraging them to spend a lot of time away from home
* New, unaffordable items that they cannot account for
* Going missing or being away from home for long periods of time
* Unexplained injuries
* A decline in performance at school

“We are working hard alongside key partner agencies who have links in to young children, including the local authorities, to safeguard vulnerable youngsters and educate them about the dangers of CCE.

“Throughout the week we will also have officers going into schools across the county to talk about county lines and speak to teachers about how they can help. 

“Some of the signs of CCE/county lines to be aware of include:

* A significant change in behaviour
* New group of friends who are older and encouraging them to spend a lot of time away from home
* New, unaffordable items that they cannot account for
* Going missing or being away from home for long periods of time
* Unexplained injuries
* A decline in performance at school"

- DCI Emma Wheatcroft


“Victims can often mistakenly be viewed as having chosen to engage in criminal behaviour. Our aim is to safeguard them and to understand how they became involved, in order to put the necessary safeguarding measures in place. 

“We need your help though. Throughout the rest of the week we’ll be telling you more about county lines and CCE, the specialist resources we have to tackle it and how vulnerable people can become involved.

“If you have any concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can speak to police on 101, or 999 in an emergency. If you would prefer to remain anonymous, please call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. 

“If you are a young person who is worried about this, please speak to someone and tell them about how you’re feeling. You can also contact Childline anonymously on 0800 1111.” 

Related Content

No related content found