County Lines and Child Drug Runners

In this blog, we discuss what the term 'County lines' refers to and signpost other useful guidance for further support. We also dive into 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.

It’s shocking to hear that children as young as seven are being groomed to sell drugs for 'county lines' drug 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 are a growing issue and are 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.”


What is Cuckooing?

The term cuckooing is used when drug dealers or crime gangs take advantage of an adult at risk by using their home or property as a headquarters to run their drug business. Often these criminals or gangs will target vulnerable individuals such as:

  • A substance abuser
  • Someone who suffers from mental health issues
  • Someone with learning disabilities 
  • A lonely individual 

These criminals will befriend these vulnerable individuals or exchange drugs in return for the use of their property. Gangs can also threaten these individuals, force them from their homes, and intimidate them into participating in the drug business. This can lead to these individuals becoming indebted to gangs and groups and they can be forced into labour, slavery and exploitation to pay off their debts. 

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 – Chief Safeguarding officer 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 to do just this. We work relentlessly every day to reduce harm to children and young people.

Other Useful Resources For County Lines

Posted Date

10th January 2021

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