What is County Lines?

What is County Lines?

'County Lines' is a form of criminal exploitation of children and young people with a devastating effect on each individual’s life, their families and their community.

County lines crime relates to the supply of Class A drugs, primarily crack cocaine and heroin, from urban cities to market towns, coastal areas and rural locations by young people, using a mobile phone line.

Children as young as seven-years-old are groomed and coerced into County Lines activity, trafficking drugs for criminal gangs around the country.

Our partners at The Children's Society have explained the term 'County Lines' in this video


Children and young people who take part are often seen as criminals rather than victims. Gangs deliberately target vulnerable groups promising a better lifestyle, money, food and/or drugs in return for their co-operation and commitment. Young people often see gang members as the only people that care for them and support them.

The reality is that the gangs will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons. Some children have been stabbed and killed by rival gangs or dealers.


Reframe The Blame

One of the best ways to help is to recognise the child or the young person as a victim of trafficking and exploitation rather than solely looking at the actions and criminal activity.

Showing care and support by being aware of the warning signs and being familiar with the multiple stages of exploitation is an important part of safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults.

How can children and young people be protected from “county lines”?

Find out more >>


County Lines training course

Our online Child Exploitation training course has been written in partnership with NWG Network and covers all types of exploitation in detail, including County Lines.

The course will help learners to understand:

  • what child exploitation is
  • models of child exploitation
  • recognising child exploitation and the impact it can have
  • what to do if you have concerns
  • what support is available

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Child Exploitation

Child exploitation refers to a child or young person being used for someone else’s gain. Child exploitation is a form of abuse which can involve sexual, abusive or manipulative behaviour. The course is produced in partnership with NWG Network, a charitable organisation made up of thousands of practitioners. They offer support, advice and training and raise awareness of child exploitation.

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Child Exploitation

This course covers:

  • Models & forms of exploitation that a child or young person may be subjected to
  • A scenario exploring an example case of exploitation
  • Physical and psychological signs of exploitation
  • Factors that can increase a person's vulnerability
  • Short & long-term effects of exploitation and its impact on family members
  • Barriers to disclosure
  • What to do if you are worried about a child

Additional information


Human trafficking and the link to 'County Lines'

‘County lines’ activity is frequently in the headlines – but what is it and why does it come under the definition of trafficking?.

Read more