Sadly, children and young people are recruited by gang members who groom them into taking part in criminal activity - moving, selling or housing the drugs - and control them through violence, threats and abuse.
County Lines is a form of criminal exploitation. Criminal exploitation is now recognised as another part of Modern Slavery in Britain.
These stories tell the lived experiences of young people who have been exploited and trafficked by County Lines criminals who sought help from the Modern Slavery Helpline:
Emily’s son Joshua grew up near a small town in the UK and became involved in with a gang who were dealing drugs from what’s known as a “cuckoo” house.
Cuckooing is where the gang takes over the home of a vulnerable person in order to establish a base for illegal drug dealing.
Eventually Joshua was arrested, but was identified as a victim of Modern Slavery, and the case was dropped against him.
Says Emily: “Why do I think this all happened to my son? Yes, he has vulnerabilities, but to me, as his mum, he was the kid that never fitted in and then suddenly found he fitted in.
“I used to think kids who got involved with gangs were probably just naughty kids. But you don’t know anything until you’ve actually seen it yourself. They don’t stand a chance.”
Fiona noticed that her son Daniel had started to change and was spending more time away from home.
Daniel had started using drugs and had lost weight.
Eventually Daniel revealed to Fiona that he had been befriended by members of a gang who offered him alcohol and drugs. The gang members used this to create a “debt” that Daniel owed them. To pay off the debt Daniel was forced to sell drugs on behalf of the gang. If Daniel tried to leave them, the gang said they would track him down and cut off one of his limbs.
Daniel and Fiona were terrified, and Daniel was struggling to talk about what was happening to him. Fiona phoned the Modern Slavery Helpline and the team assessed that Daniel was a potential victim of criminal exploitation.
Daniel was not ready to speak to the Helpline himself, but the Helpline continued to support him indirectly by assisting Fiona in helping her son move on.
Modern Slavery Helpline
If you are worried about your child or loved one, you can get advice or make a report to the Modern Slavery Helpline:
Call: 0800 121 700
Chat or report online: modernslaveryhelpline.org/