County lines is the term used by police and partners for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban and rural areas, market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines. Gangs use children and young people to move drugs and money to and from the urban area. It is a major cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, exploitation, modern slavery and missing persons.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) published its second threat assessment on county lines in November last year. The report highlights both that this phenomenon is becoming more widespread and that the age of those involved is getting younger, with children as young at 12 being targeted as part of county lines exploitation.
On 17 November 2016, to coincide with publication of the NCA report, Home Office Minister Sarah Newton MP, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, wrote to all Police and Crime Commissioners, Chief Constables, local authority Chief Executives and Directors of Children’s Services to draw their attention to the report. The Minister also asked for help in raising awareness and to consider what more can be done to ensure that children and young people who are being exploited are identified and supported.