County lines, or 'going country' describes situations where criminal networks or gangs use young people to carry and sell drugs.
Criminal networks or gangs use their power and position to groom, recruit and exploit young people to move money and drugs from one area to another. Young people will often be made to travel outside of their local area, often to coastal or market towns, where they use dedicated phone lines or 'deal lines' to sell drugs.
In return the young people will often be given things that they want or need, such as money, gifts like designer clothes and trainers, status, perceived friendship, or protection. Soon these gifts turn into threats of what will happen if they don't complete their tasks.
Intimidation tactics make it very difficult for young people to say no, particularly as debts are incurred.
The Children’s Society and other charities are working to tackle county lines, particularly to support vulnerable young people in dealing with the trauma they have been through, as well as get them recognized as victims of exploitation rather than criminals themselves.
For more information, click here.
If you're concerned and need support or advice in relation to county lines, you can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 – it's a free 24/7 confidential helpline for children and young people.
You can access more information about gangs and the support available for young people on their website.
If you are a parent or professional who is worried about a child being criminally exploited, click here.
Think a young person is at risk?
If you have any concerns about a young person who you think might be being exploited in any way, do contact your local safeguarding hub, click here.
Immediate risk of harm?999
If a child or young person is at immediate risk of significant harm, please dial 999.