County Lines

'County Lines' is a national issue involving the use of mobile phone ‘lines’ by groups to extend their drug dealing business into new locations outside of their home areas. A 'county lines' enterprise almost always involves exploitation of vulnerable persons; this can involve both children and adults who require safeguarding.1 The National Crime Agency (NCA) provides further useful information.

'Cuckooing' is a form of crime in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person to use it as a base for drug dealing.

65% of Police forces reported the exploitation of children in ‘County Lines’ situations. This exploitation includes drug running, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Vulnerable young people aged 13 to 18 years are being recruited to be drug runners or dealers.

Several children used are vulnerable, not only because of their age. Many have also been identified as having broader mental health issues, coming from broken homes, experienced chaotic or traumatic lives, or have been reported as missing. They may also be drug users.

Most of these young people have accrued drug debts and the networks are using fear tactics, threatening them with violence in order to force them into working for the line. Sexual exploitation is a significant risk factor associated to county lines. has further information and also tips on how to spot a child who might be involved.


  1. National Crime Agency