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Children as young as 12 are being put in danger by criminals who are taking advantage of how vulnerable these young people are. Criminal exploitation is also known as 'county lines' and is when gangs and organised crime networks exploit children to sell drugs. Often these children are made to travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs.
The crime is called county lines because a single telephone number is used to order drugs, operated from outside the area. These gangs often set up a base in a rural area for a short time, taking over the home of a vulnerable person (also known as 'cuckooing').
SIGNS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Here are some signs to look out for that can suggest that someone you know might be involved in county lines activity.
- Are they always going missing from school or their home?
- Are they travelling alone to places far away from home?
- Do they suddenly have lots of money/lots of new clothes/new mobile phones?
- Are they receiving much more calls or texts than usual?
- Are they carrying or selling drugs?
- Are they carrying weapons or know people that have access to weapons?
- Are they in a relationship with or hanging out with someone/people that are older and controlling?
- Do they have unexplained injuries?
- Do they seem very reserved or seem like they have something to hide?
- Do they seem scared?
- Are they self-harming?
What should you do if you suspect a girl or boy is involved in County Lines or other gang activities?
When it is considered that the police need to be involved, issues will be referred to the School’s Police.
The School notes that when a report is made to the police they are not able to offer general advice on incidents. If the children involved are named or specifics are provided they are duty-bound to record and investigate all criminal activity reported.
Members of staff should report this as a child protection issue to the Designated Safeguarding Leads. Parents/carers should raise concerns with the relevant year team/s who can take advice on what next steps to take. Alternatively, parents/carers can report concerns directly to the police or to MASH.
Members of the public should report County Lines or related concerns to the police or to MASH (020 8770 6001).