County Line gang activities and recruitment of young children have increased across the UK during the lockdown.
What are County Lines?
It is a technique to transport drugs from one area to another by using the individual phone lines. The Organised Criminal Groups (OCGs) exploit innocent children and get them to sell and supply drugs.
There are more than 20 OCGs across the UK trafficking drugs into small towns and villages. They do this by manipulating children as young as 13, especially those with mental health or addiction issues. They are trained and groomed by the drug dealers who use them as drug mules to carry packages of heroin and cocaine on public transport.
Philip Seccombe, a Police and Crime Commissioner of Warwickshire told Westminster World: “They are trying to sell the maximum amount of drugs for which they need to set base in a town or rural area and the process is known as cuckooing.”
He further added: “During the lockdown, it was easy for police to track down the drug traffickers. There have been many successful operations with arresting and charging the drug distributing suppliers.”
Social media and modern technology play a major role in child criminal exploitation. The drug dealers broadcast their products on social networking sites with prices.
How does one know if their child is involved in County Lines?
When a child may be affiliated with a gang, they tend to show unusual behaviour such as aggression and abusive language. They get a high number of texts or phone calls with private numbers.
Parents have also claimed to notice changes in their physical and mental well-being. They have received complaints of their child repeatedly missing schools and sometimes are found in unknown areas away from home.
What are the strict measures taken by the government to protect the children?
The Home Office invested £20 million on the enforcement of strict laws to disrupt the County Lines network across the UK.
The expansion of the National County Lines Co-ordination Centre (NCLCC) and the National Crime Agency (NCA) provided additional strategic resources to regional crime units’ such as enhanced data analysis using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) to monitor the vehicles of the county line gang members.
The government has expanded its support for County Lines victims with the help of national specialist support services to help young people quit the gangs.
If anyone suspects signs of County Line activities in a neighbourhood or at home, contact the Metropolitan Police.