County Lines and Child Drug Runners

In this blog, The Safeguarding Company discusses Channel 4's film: Britain's Child Drug Runners. The harrowing documentary follows the lives of four young people who are trapped in the world of county lines. We explain what the term 'County lines' refers to and signpost other useful guidance for further support.

It’s shocking to hear that children as young as seven are being groomed to sell drugs for 'county lines' drugs gangs in towns and villages all over the UK.

“It’s called county lines. And once they’re hooked in, kids are trapped.”


What does ‘County Lines’ mean?

‘County Lines’ is the term given to drug gangs from large cities expanding their activities to smaller areas. Drug gangs will often use violence to threaten local drug dealers and drive them out, as well as using exploitative methods to persuade children and vulnerable people (often with mental health or addiction problems) to move and sell their stock.

The people exploited through county lines can be exposed to mental, physical and sexual abuse. Sadly, the children involved in county lines often don’t consider themselves as victims or realise they have been groomed into this criminal activity. For too many, by the time they see the reality of their situation, they feel trapped by this cycle of crime and abuse.

County lines is a growing issue and is considered to be a leading contributor to an eight-fold increase in the number of child victims of modern slavery between 2014 and 2017.

“If I could go back, I would. 100,000,000%. I just can’t get out of it now.”

“This county line thing, man. It’s only going to send you literally two ways, man. It’s either jail or death.”



Britain’s Child Drug Runners

This Channel 4 film follows the lives of four young people who are trapped in the world of county lines. This inside view of the world that these young people live in is a stark and heart wrenching wake up call, highlighting the importance of intervening early and offering young people the support and education they need to keep themselves safe from exploitation.

Watch the full film from Channel 4 here.


Mike Glanville – Director of Safeguarding Services for The Safeguarding Company says:

“This film shows the difficult reality for so many of our children and young people. As well as providing education and support for children at an early stage, we must ensure that staff in schools, colleges and other organisations are equipped with the training and tools they need to identify and report signs of this type of exploitation so that interventions can take place before issues escalate.

“Our safeguarding software MyConcern has been designed and created to support staff in a multitude of organisations do just this. We work relentlessly every day to reduce harm to children and young people.



Other Useful Resources For County Lines

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