What is County Lines?
County lines refers to the exploitation of young people by organised crime networks to traffick drugs to rural areas, often travelling across counties.
How do you spot the signs?
Below are several indicators to check for young people potentially being exploited in this manner, as compiled by the non-profit organisation SPACE (Stop and Prevent Adolescent Criminal Exploitation). Learn more about their work here.
Parental Concerns or Uncharacteristic Behaviours
- Withdrawal to bedroom all day / secrecy / obsession about door being closed.
- Withdrawal from normal activities and interests.
- Sudden interest in rap or drill music.
- Sudden interest in weights.
- Increasingly lying / manipulative / argumentative / aggressive / angry.
- Leaving home suddenly without explanation.
- Obsession with designer labels.
- Physically aggressive especially if met with obstacles or plans disrupted.
- Rapid / extreme change in appearance – from smart to ‘street’.
- Rapid / extreme change in language – from well-spoken and respectful to coarse and offensive language.
- Using coached responses such as ‘right to remain silent’ or ‘no comment’.
- Total denial of situation as it appears – despite evidence to contrary.
- Significant decline in school results / performance / behaviour.
- Obsession with postcodes & ‘boundaries’.
- Knowledge of areas with no legitimate links.
Presence of Unexplained Items
- Packets of (secreted) white substance.
- Traces of white substance (kitchen surface / rolling pin).
- Scrunched up cling film & foil.
- Paracetamol sheets missing / running out quickly without explanation
- Lighters / cigarettes / debit cards in unknown identities, explained as ‘just found on road’.
- Knife / mobile chargers / dongles / cash / mobile data cards (Lycamobile).
- Notes with crime-orientated rap lyrics & street slang (‘8 ways in, only 1 way out’).
- Notes with sexualised female identities (social media?).
- After-shaves / perfumes / trainers / stationery items (gifted / stolen).
- Condoms & Vaseline (plugging).
- Train tickets
- Balaclava (personal use or holding for others).
Items Missing From Home
- Old family mobiles and chargers.
- Handbag shoulder chains.
- Kitchen knives.
- Absence from school or disappearing during school.
- Isolation from peers at school.
- Total withdrawal and detachment from family.
- Suddenly disinterest in seeing family/cousins – ‘nothing in common’.
- Sudden interest in parents’ salary and mortgage payments.
- Obsessively and repeatedly demanding (re: mobile, ‘need’ to go out etc.).
- Maintains ‘story’ despite lacking total credibility.
- Not divulging where going, who with or how travelling.
- Excessive receipt of unexplained texts / phone calls at all hours.
- Unexplained use of Tor app on mobile.
- Unexplained use of Uber app on mobile.
- Suspected use of taxis.
- Complete change / negative attitude towards Police / school / authority. From lack of eye-contact to bravado / squaring up / rudeness & aggression.
- Total lack of empathy towards those lied to or stolen from.
- Persistently going missing or being found out-of-area
- Being hugely anti-Police (‘Feds’).
- Very defensive/argumentative about Muslims.
- Viewing family as enemy & associates as family.
- Obliterating identifying information from train (season) ticket.
- Deliberately avoiding having train ID card on person.
- Using trains without paying fares / not using own Oyster.
- Oyster card used by others.
- Debit card missing – used by associates for money laundering.
- Cutting off name labels from uniform items.
- Cutting off age labels.
- Suspected misuse of drugs/alcohol, and smoking.
- Involvement in crime.
- Direct involvement with gang members.
- Use of false identities, dates of birth, and addresses,
- Inappropriate sexualised behaviour.
- Involvement with older individuals / dropping friends from school.
- Unexplained injuries & suspicion of physical assaults.
- In cars in unexplained areas with unknown people (‘hitch-hiking after party’).
- Obsession with winter hats and gloves, even in warmer months (identification and fingerprint evasion).
- Wearing two layers of clothing from home – top layer shed to avoid police detection.
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