County Lines is the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.
They exploit vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute the drugs, often referred to as 'drug running'.
OCGs often use high levels of violence and intimidation to protect the 'county line' and control them.
One of these forms of control exploits vulnerable people by using their home as a base for dealing drugs, a process known as cuckooing.
Signs to look out for:
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is involved in County Lines:
Persistently going missing from school or home and being found in other areas
Unexplained money, new clothes or electronic devices
Receiving high numbers of texts or phone calls, being secretive about who they're speaking to
Decline in school or work performance
Significant changes in emotional or physical well-being
Dealers often entice the vulnerable person into allowing their home to be used for drug dealing by giving them free drugs or offering to pay for food or utilities.
These OCGs are very selective about who they target as "cuckoo" victims. Often people they target are lonely, isolated, or frequent drug users themselves.
The OCGs often operate from a property for a short amount of time, frequently moving addresses in order to reduce the chance of being caught.
Signs to look out for:
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is a victim of cuckooing:
Frequent visitors at unsociable hours
Changes in your neighbour's daily routine
Unusual smells coming from a property
Suspicious or unfamiliar vehicles outside an address
Where can I get help, advice and information?
If you, or some you know, has been affected by any of the issues raised in Channel 4's documentary about county drugs lines, there are a number of avenues open to you, including:
Young Addaction is the drug and alcohol treatment service for young people in Oxfordshire. Young Addaction provide a confidential service for young people needing information, advice, support or treatment.
Drugs info provides reliable resources & information on the most commonly used drugs in the UK. The information on this site is designed to help & support those of you who may be struggling with drugs addiction.
Drugscope is the leading UK charity supporting professionals working in drug and alcohol treatment, drug education and prevention and criminal justice. We are also the primary source of independent information on drugs and drug related issues.
Frank offers free confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day. You can call 0800 776600, email, or ask a question online.
Crimestoppers is an independent UK-wide charity working to stop crime. Crimestoppers works for you, your family and your community. Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
UK Youth is an organisation, which develops and promotes innovative non-formal education programmes for and with young people - working with them to develop their potential.
NHS Direct is at the forefront of 24-hour health care - delivering telephone and e-health information services day and night direct to the public. Call 0845 4647.
If you need some advice or just want to talk, call ChildLine free on 0800 1111. Calls are free and confidential.
If you're concerned about drug-related crime in your area or think someone may be a victim of drug exploitation, please call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report online or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111
Follow our Stronghold activity on social media using #TVPStronghold and #countylines.
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