A national campaign aimed at raising public awareness of ‘county lines’ has been launched by Crimestoppers. Social media advertising will show the signs to spot and encourage the public to report concerns anonymously to Crimestoppers.
County lines refers to gangs and organised criminal networks which export illegal drugs into suburban, rural and coastal areas, using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal line”. These gangs move into a rural or suburban area where they set up base, and exploit children and vulnerable adults to move drugs and money. Many of those exploited by these gangs have been forced to carry out criminal activity by threats, grooming and extortion and can be described as modern day slaves.
To help the public understand what county lines is and encourage reporting to Crimestoppers, the charity has launched a national campaign. Social media advertising will help raise awareness of the issue. During the campaign, an ad van will be present in key cities across Yorkshire and Humberside, the West Midlands, Wales, Essex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex during the campaign, to inform the public of county lines and how they can help.
Crimestoppers are working closely with the Home Office, who are running a campaign which targets staff who may encounter young people who are being exploited by county lines gangs. The Home Office campaign targets staff in the transport, private security and accommodation sector and provides them with information on how to identify if a young person may be being exploited by county lines gangs and how to safeguard that vulnerable young person. The Home Office’s campaign is just part of a wider range of work, set out in the Serious Violence Strategy, to tackle county lines.
Spot the signs and report concerns
Crimestopppers’ campaign shows the signs to spot which might indicate a child or vulnerable person is being exploited by a county lines gang. The signs which you might see are:
A child or young person (sometimes as young as 12) in a shopping centre or high street, or on public transport during school hours or unusual hours (e.g. early in the morning, late at night.
A child or young person who seems unfamiliar with the local area
A child or young person being approached or intimidated by a controlling peer or group
A child or vulnerable person who is deliberately avoiding authority figures such as police officers or security guards
More people calling at a local address than normal, sometimes at unsociable hours
Suspicious vehicles or people at an address
A neighbour who has not been seen for a while
If you see something that doesn’t feel right, or looks suspicious, you can report your concerns anonymously to Crimestoppers. You can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or send an untraceable online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org.