Grooming for Criminal Activity
‘Children as young as six are being forced to carry and sell drugs far away from their homes. They skip school, sleep in drug dens and are treated as criminals – when they often feel trapped in a hopeless situation.’ The Children’s Society 2020.
According to the NSPCC there are three types of gangs:
A relatively small and transient social grouping which may or may not describe themselves as a gang depending on the context.
“Groups of young people who see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group for whom crime and violence is integral to the group’s identity.”
Organised Criminal Gangs
“A group of individuals for whom involvement in crime is for personal gain (financial or otherwise). For most crime is their ‘occupation.”
County Lines is the latest term adopted by police and government agencies to describe the contemporary drug dealing practices of criminal gangs (HM Government, 2018). County Lines involve criminal groups establishing a network between an urban hub and a county location, into which drugs are supplied (NCA, 2018). The HM Government state that County Lines drug dealing is a new and rapidly evolving illicit drug supply model which sees urban drug gangs cross police borders to courier heroin and crack cocaine to rural or coastal towns.
Research conducted by Andell and Pitts found that “While most street gangs are temporary and disorganized, some have institutionalized, and a number of these show signs of evolving into more serious criminal enterprises, becoming more networked, technologically savvy and internationalized, less visible, more predatory and sometimes more violent”. Susceptible populations, including children under the age of 18, are used to travel between urban hubs and the new drug market to supply drugs for usually little reward .To overcome market overload and to maximise profits, drug gangs have begun travelling to rural areas—where drugs markets are less well established—to develop a new client base to sell to.
County Lines also represent a public health problem in terms of harm to vulnerable populations (Robinson et al 2018). However, it is the active targeting of children and vulnerable adults and their systematic exploitation through debt bondage, “coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons” (HM Government, 2018), Beyond “street capital” or status rewards (Harding, 2014), criminally exploited youth allegedly receive tangible rewards for working County Lines, such as money, alcohol, drugs, and accommodation (Knowsley Safeguarding Children’s Board, 2017).
County Lines have been linked with an increase in homicides involving known illicit drug dealers and/or users as victims and/or suspects, and with an increase in knife crime outside of the main metropolitan areas in Britain (HM Government, 2018).
The Metropolitan Police highlight signs that you can look out for if you think someone could be involved in county lines;
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is involved in county lines:
- Repeatedly going missing from school or home and being found in other areas.
- Having money, new clothes or electronic devices and they can’t explain how they paid for them.
- Getting 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
Need more information?
Who can you contact if your child is involved with county lines?
If you feel like your child is in immediate danger, please dial 999 or the relevant professional body. To find out more information from the following organisations, click on the buttons below.
If you do not want to contact the police you can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or using their Online Reporting Form.