County lines: criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults

Brings together documents and promotional material related to the government’s work to end criminal exploitation.

The term county lines refers to urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas, as well as market and coastal towns, by using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. Gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money to these areas. Once caught up in county lines, exploited individuals are at risk of extreme physical and/or sexual violence, gang recriminations and trafficking.

As part of the Serious Violence Strategy, the Home Office is helping to raise awareness of county lines among frontline staff. This includes teachers, health workers and those who work in the transport, housing and security sectors. These people are most likely to encounter individuals at risk.

This will help staff spot potential victims and report concerns anonymously to Crimestoppers, or follow their organisation’s safeguarding policy.

A young person who is involved in county lines activity might show some of these signs:

  • persistently going missing from school or home, or being found out-of-area
  • unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones
  • excessive receipt of texts or phone calls
  • relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
  • parental concerns, and leaving home or care without explanation
  • suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • significant decline in school performance and changes in emotional well-being

On this page you will find a guidance booklet for frontline workers and professionals, as well as social media images and posters which you can use to help raise awareness of county lines.


Promotional materials

Published 13 December 2017
Last updated 21 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Graphics for sharing on social media published.

  2. Added links to promotional posters for letting agents and landlords.

  3. Added links to promotional posters for taxi and private vehicle hire staff, rail and train operator staff, security industry staff, and bus and coach company staff.

  4. First published.