What is county lines? It is a form of criminal exploitation where children and young people are often coerced or forced to store drugs and/or money, often transporting them to suburban areas, market towns and costal towns. This usually occurs in over-taken properties, aka, Cuckooing, which is used as a base to sell illegal substances. Cuckooing happens when a county lines gang takes over the home of a vulnerable adult by coercion or force, and use it as a base to deal drugs from. the young people involved are usually expected to mind the phone line up to 24 hours a day. Dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines” are used to help facilitate county lines drug deals. Phones are usually burner phones to avoid detection by the police. Gangs use the phones to receive orders and contact young people to instruct them where to deliver drugs. This may be to a local dealer or drug user, or a dealer or drug user in another county.
Children and young people may be criminally exploited in multiple ways. Other forms of criminal exploitation include child sexual exploitation, trafficking, gang and knife crime. County lines gangs are highly organised criminal networks that use sophisticated, frequently evolving techniques to groom young people and evade capture by the police. Perpetrators use children and young people to maximise profits and distance themselves from the criminal act of physically dealing drugs (National Crime agency, 2019). Young people do the majority of the work and take the most risk for little pay.
Perpetrators may use drugs and alcohol to entice young people into the gang lifestyle. In some cases gangs trick young people into incurring drug debts that they then have to pay off through county lines activity. This is often referred to as ‘debt bondage’.
LGE works with young people aged 16 to 24 years old who are affected, associated or affiliated with gang related issues or serious youth violence.
LGE takes self referrals, referrals from families/carers/friends, statutory/non statutory organisations.
We encourage you to call to discuss any potential referral before completing a referral form so that we can be sure young people are eligible for the service. If LGE is not the right service we will do our best to sign post to an alternative provision.
To be eligible for referral, the young person (male or female) should be:
- aged between 16-24 associated with or involved in gangs (if they fall outside the eligible age range they will be considered on a case by case basis)
- at significant risk of harm from gang activity, (such as violence or exploitation), a risk to themselves, or pose a risk of harm to others motivated to end their gang involvement (if applicable) and are willing to work with the LGE service.
The young person will not be eligible:
- if they are not yet motivated to end their gang involvement (if applicable) and not willing to work with the LGE service
- if there is no evidence of gang association or risks from gangs
- if they are already receiving extensive support from the borough that they are residing in, or from other statutory organisations, or if the services they require are available locally to them (although if services are oversubscribed or not suitable then they will be considered).