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Criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults

Vulnerable children and young people

County line gangs use children and vulnerable people to courier drugs and money.

Know the signs to spot.

A young person who is involved in county lines activity may display some of the following signs:

  • persistently going missing from school or home, or being found out-of-area
  • unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones
  • excessive receipt of text or phone calls
  • relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
  • leaving home or care without explanation
  • suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • parental concerns
  • significant decline in school performance
  • significant changes in emotional well-being

If you have concerns, follow your safeguarding procedures and share your concerns with the Council's social care services.

Vulnerable tenants in housing

Urban drug dealing gangs are moving into rural towns and coastal communities, where they get properties and establish a base.

These gangs use a drug dealing model, known as 'County Lines', and generally pressure a vulnerable person such as drug users, or those with mental or physical health problems, to allow them to use their property as a base.

These vulnerable people are then further exploited by the gangs to sell drugs on their behalf.

Know what to look out for:

  • is a tenant getting more visitors?
  • do visitors come at unusual times of the day or night?
  • are curtains or blinds almost always shut?
  • has a tenant stopped leaving their house?
  • are there suspicious smells around the property?
  • has anti-social behaviour increased around the property?

If you have concerns that a vulnerable tenant is being exploited, you should report it to Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

Vulnerable children in a house involved in county lines activity

If you think a vulnerable child is in a house involved in county lines activity, they may show some of these signs:

  • the child might seem unfamiliar with the area or not have a local accent
  • they have relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
  • suspicions of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • they deliberately avoid authority figures such as police officers

For more information and advice on county lines see GOV.UK: Criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults

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