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County Lines

Criminal Exploitation and County Lines

Child Criminal Exploitation occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of a person under the age of 18 and may coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under that age into any activity (a) In exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) For the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or (c) Through violence or the threat of violence. The victim may be exploited even if the activity appears consensual (i.e. moving drugs or the proceeds of drugs from one place to another).Child Criminal Exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. (Home Office 2018)


What is County Lines:

County lines is the term used for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas and market coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”.  It involves child criminal exploitation (CCE) as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money.  Gangs establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion, a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.

County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and missing persons; and the response to tackle it involves the police, the National Crime Agency, a wide range of Government departments, local government agencies and VCS (voluntary and community sector) organisations. 

County lines activity and the associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation has a devastating impact on young people, vulnerable adults and local communities.

The Home Office has produced a guidance: Criminal Exploitation of Children and Vulnerable Adults: County Lines Guidance for frontline professionals on dealing with county lines, part of the government’s approach to ending gang violence and exploitation.


What are the signs of criminal exploitation and county lines?

  • Returning home late, staying out all night or going missing
  • Being found in areas away from home
  • Increasing drug use, or being found to have large amounts of drugs on them
  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
  • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work
  • Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery
  • Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
  • Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
  • Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled
  • Having hotel cards or keys to unknown place


Criminal Exploitation

Advice about how to spot the signs of criminal exploitation and involvement in gangs and what support is available for children and young people. Child Sexual Explotation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse and is illegal. Please see further information and advice from Dorset Police on protection children against child sexual exploitation.


What to do if you are worried about Child Exploitation:

Report anything you see as suspicious as intelligence to

Dorset Police: or 101

Or anonymously through Crimestoppers: or 0800 555 111


As a parent or member of the public – if you have concerns regarding a young person’s welfare:

Call Police on 999 if in immediate danger

MASH BCP area: 01202 123334 (9am- 5pm Monday to Friday; 01202 738256 after 5pm and weekends)

ChAD Dorset area:  01305 228558 (8am-10pm Monday to Friday; 9am-10pm weekends, and on call after 10pm)


Further information can be found at: Criminal Exploitation and County Lines - Pan-Dorset Safeguarding Children Partnership ( or by contacting a Safeguarding Lead at St. Joseph's. 

SPACE is a self-funded organisation founded in January 2018, in response to the national prevalence of Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) and the County Lines phenomenon which has entrenched thousands of young children and people into serious violence and organised crime. Please visit the website here.