On this page, we talk about the emerging issue of County Lines, with tips and advice of what we need to be aware of.
What do we mean by county lines?
County lines, or ‘going country’ means groups or gangs using young people or vulnerable adults to carry and sell drugs from borough to borough, and across county boundaries. It is a tactic used by groups or gangs to facilitate the selling of drugs in an area outside of the area they live, reducing their risk of detection. This issue is affecting Halton.
County line enterprises almost always involve exploitation of vulnerable people: this could involve both children and adults and is always a safeguarding issue. The gang/group will put vulnerable individuals between themselves and the risk of detection, asking them to carry and sell drugs, and/or to sell drugs at the other end of the line. A group/gang may also target a vulnerable person living in the area outside of their area and take over their home as a base to sell drugs from.
This almost exclusively involves violence, intimidation and the offer of money or drugs. The use of the property for drug dealing often leads to the vulnerable person being left homeless. This is sometimes known as ‘cuckooing’. The gang might also send young vulnerable people from their own area to stay at the house and distribute the drugs, again often intimidating and threatening them to stay. This is sometimes known as a ‘trap house’, and mobile phones are used to order more drugs, carried by other young people or vulnerable adults, who travel by train or car.
The impact of this is that young people become indebted to gang/groups and are forced into labour and exploitation to pay off debts and local vulnerable people are targeted in care homes, foster care, and local authority and supported housing.
What can we do?
What we find, time and again, is that early identification is paramount to safeguarding young and vulnerable people and identifying and tackling gang/group exploitation. At OBA, we are working with our partners in Cheshire Police and Halton Borough Council to educating our students and staff about county lining.
Some indicators to be mindful of
- Young people going missing and travelling to seaside or market towns
- Money, clothes or accessories that children are unable to account for
This video is also helpful for parents to understand the issues involved
Please note this list is not exhaustive, and parents & carers can seek our advice if they are concerned. These are safeguarding issues and should be reported to the safeguarding team in the school.