What is County Lines?

Children as young as seven are being put in danger by criminals who are taking advantage of innocence. Any child can be exploited, no matter their background.

Criminal exploitation is also known as 'county lines' and is when gangs and organised crime networks groom and exploit children to sell drugs. Often these children are made to travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs.

No one really knows how many young people across the country are being forced to take part, but The Children’s Commissioner estimates there are at least 46,000 children in England who are involved in gang activity. It is estimated that around 4,000

teenagers in London alone are being exploited through child criminal exploitation, or 'county lines'.

Tragically the young people exploited through 'county lines' can often be treated as criminals themselves.

Children and young people who take part are often seen as criminals rather than victims. Gangs deliberately target vulnerable groups promising a better lifestyle, money, food and/or drugs in return for their co-operation and commitment.

Sadly, young people often see gang members as the only people that care for them and support them.

The reality is that the gangs will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

Young girls are often groomed and forced into relationships with gang members and are made to perform sexual acts.

Do you recognise any of these words?

Here are some words/terms that are commonly used when describing county lines activity. If you hear someone using these words then they might be involved in or might know of county lines activity.


 Cuckooing is when drug gangs take over the home of a vulnerable person through violence and intimidation, using it as their base for selling/manufacturing drugs.


  •  An increase in people coming and going

  • An increase in cars or bikes outside  

  • Litter outside 

  • Signs of drugs use

  • You haven’t seen the person who lives there recently or when you have, they have been anxious or distracted.


This is the most popular term that describes county lines activity. It can also mean the act of travelling to another city/town to deliver drugs or money.


The act of selling drugs. Trapping can refer to the act of moving drugs from one town to another or the act of selling drugs in one. 


A building used as a base from where drugs are sold (or sometimes manufactured). These houses usually are occupied by someone (usually adult drug users but sometimes young people are forced to stay in trap houses) location.


This refers to when someone owns a mobile phone specifically for the purpose of running and selling drugs.

"I’m concerned about my teenager, what other signs might there be?"

Other signs that indicate involvement might include;

  • Going missing from school or their home

  • Travelling alone to places far away from home

  • More money and/or secret or new phones.

  • Receiving much more calls or texts than usual

  • Carrying weapons or know people that have access to weapons

  • Being in a relationship with or hanging out with someone/people that are older and appear to be controlling.

  • Unexplained injuries

  • Seemingly very reserved

  • Acting scared or anxious

  • Self Harming

If you or anyone you know related to this article and feel that you need to talk, please contact us at memberservice@ohanamind.com or similarly please contact the following organisations;

Together we can prevent exploitation and save the lives of young people.

Peace and Love to you All,

Michaela Johnson

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