What is County Lines?

‘County lines’ is a term we hear on the news, on TV dramas and in relation to drugs and knife crime – but what is it? What are the risks and how can we keep safe?

County lines is a form of criminal exploitation where urban gangs persuade, coerce or force children and young people to store drugs and money and/or transport them to suburban areas, market towns and coastal towns (Home Office, 2018). It can happen in any part of the UK and is against the law and a form of child abuse.

Source: Times, November 2018

How old are the young people involved? Why is Billy’s Wish talking about County Lines?

We, at Billy’s Wish, aim to educate young people and their families about any risk we see associated with knife crime.

With county lines, older teens and and adults organise gangs. They use ‘Runners’ who are 12-15 years old, but younger children, under 10 years old, are increasingly vulnerable to being used to carry drugs and weapons because these ‘Teenies’ are too young to be prosecuted.

Please talk to your children about where they go and who they talk to on their way home from school. Explain that ‘strangers’ are anyone who they don’t know, and to be wary of anyone offering them gifts or money making opportunities. Gangs will use their runners and teenies to befriend vulnerable children. They can get increasingly involved until they find it hard to get out – situations are set up so that the young person is tricked into being in their debt and then intimidated.

Running county lines involves runners and teenies carrying drugs and huge sums of money, as a result, knives and other weapons are involved to intimidate and to harm. The gangs will protect any threat from other gangs to their cash or drugs being taken.

See the NSPCC link below for more information, but some early signs to look out for are: your child having new, older friends; money or new possessions they can’t account for; a change in mood – becoming scared and defensive.

County Lines in Hertfordshire

While knife crime numbers are relatively low in Hertforshire, 27 London gangs are known to be active here, as well as gangs from Luton and Essex.
County lines activity has been identified in 9 towns including Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Watford and St Albans (in 2020).

For information from Herts Police read this article about how they made arrests after targeting countly lines activity. The article includes information on how to report suspicious behaviour: Herts Police: Operation MANTIS arrests


Do you know…?

What do these phrases mean? ‘Going OT’   ‘Going cunch’   ‘Running a line’   ‘Cuckooing’
What links are there between county lines and drugs and violent crime?
Which children are at risk of being targetted?
What are the warning signs?
If it’s so bad why dodn’t the children just leave?

Please visit this page on the NSPCC site for answeres to these questions, and advice and information:  NSPCC County Lines

Prevention – our number one tool to fight knife crime and any related issues, is talking.
Do not be afraid to have difficult conversations with your family. If there is a small worry or concern, address it before it gets bigger.

If you don’t feel there is anyone to talk to face to face, the Samaritans are always ready to talk

Nothing is too awful, or too small, to talk about to someone you trust