Signs a young person may have been recruited into a county lines drugs gang

Police during an Operation Gravity raid. Photo: Denise Bradley

Police during an Operation Gravity raid. Photo: Denise Bradley


The government has refreshed its advice on county lines drug gangs, including its signs that a young person may be involved.

The Home Office updated its guidance on county lines on Monday, issued primarily for frontline staff who work with young people. They say it is also useful for carers and parents.

Police say that teenagers are being recruited into the gangs to act as drugs ‘couriers’.

Figures from Norfolk police show children as young as 14 have been charged with supplying heroin in the last year. And in 2017 50 boys aged 16 or under were arrested for supplying drugs. In Suffolk, police caught 45 boys and six girls for dealing.

The document says that, while the national picture on county lines continues to develop, children as young as 12 are being “exploited or moved by gangs to courier drugs out of their local area”, with 15 and 16 the most common ages.

Both girls and boys are being targeted, with the most common initial contact being made through social media.

The guidance says: “A young person’s involvement in county lines activity often leaves signs. A person might exhibit some of these signs, either as a member or as an associate of a gang dealing drugs. Any sudden changes in a person’s lifestyle should be discussed with them.”

It then goes on to list potential indicators of county lines involvement:

• Persistently going missing from school or home and/or being found out of area

• Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones

• Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls and/or having multiple handsets

• Relationships with controlling/older individuals or groups

• Leaving home/care without explanation

• Suspicion of physical assault/unexplained injuries

• Parental concerns

• Carrying weapons

• Significant decline in schools results/performance

• Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks

• Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being

MORE: Children in care targeted by drug gangs - and then sent to deal in Norfolk

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