‘County lines’ is a national issue, where organised crime gangs from cities such as London, Liverpool and Birmingham put children and vulnerable adults between themselves and the risk of detection by manipulating them into carrying and selling drugs.
‘Runners’ will be sent across county boundaries to areas like Llanelli, Newtown, and Haverfordwest to deliver and/or sell Class A drugs at the other end of the line.
We're raising awareness of this threat to young people and vulnerable adults.
The independent charity Crimestoppers Wales provides an anonymous route to give information about crime, and offers a bespoke service to young people called Fearless. Through Fearless, we aim to engage with and educate young people vulnerable to or involved in county lines criminality.
Spot the signs
Are you a parent, carer, teacher, health worker? These signs could mean a young person you know is being used by a gang:
- breakdown of relationships with family and friends
- meeting with/contact from unknown adults
- going missing from school or home
- decline in standard of schoolwork
- changes in behaviour including criminality
- unexplained gifts
- new clothes and possessions
- they have more 'cash to splash'
- travelling alone
- on the phone more often
- using drugs and alcohol
- carrying a weapon or knife
- new boyfriend or girlfriend
- signs of physical harm including sexual
- signs of emotional harm - self harming, suicidal behaviour
- they seem scared
Gangs are befriending vulnerable people and taking over their homes as a base for drug dealing. This is called ‘cuckooing’.
This may be with the blessing of the resident, but more often is as a result of force or the threat of force. In some cases, the resident can also be pressured into selling drugs.
Unusual activity that could be associated with ‘cuckooing’ include:
- lots of different people coming and going from an address
- people coming and going at odd times of the day and night
- suspicious smells coming from the property
- windows covered or curtains closed all the time
- cars pulling up to or near the house for a short period of time
- an increase in anti-social behaviour around the property
We're asking for your help to identify cuckooing.
If you notice any of the above with your neighbour or tenant, it could be because their home has been taken over by a drug dealing gang.
We’re not asking you to provide evidence or even to be absolutely certain of what you have seen or experienced.
But if you are in any way concerned, report it.
Detective Chief Superintendent statement
Shane Williams said:
Our number one priority is to protect vulnerable people, and this includes children, who can be as young as 12 years old, and the vulnerable adults who are ruthlessly exploited by urban gangs to do their dirty work. Ultimately our aim is to make the Dyfed-Powys area a hostile environment for organised crime groups, preventing all forms of harm associated with these gangs.
Any child or vulnerable adult can be affected and it’s important to recognise that it can still be exploitation, even if the activity appears consensual.
Our aim is to shine a light on this exploitation, and by working together with a wide range of partner agencies including local authorities, third sector agencies, housing associations, train and coach operators, identify abuse sooner so that we can intervene and keep vulnerable people safe.
How exploitation works
Children as young as 12 years old are being ruthlessly groomed and exploited by organised crime groups who traffick them across counties carrying drugs, weapons and money.
Someone may be vulnerable to exploitation by organised crime groups for a number of reasons, but invariably there is a power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the exploitation.
- cognitive ability
- social isolation
However, a consistent factor in county lines exploitation is the presence of some form of exchange between the victim and perpetrator.
In exchange for carrying out a task, the victim may be promised or given something they need or want. This could be something tangible such as money, drugs or clothes or intangible such as protection, status, affection or perceived friendship.
The prevention of something negative can also fulfil the requirement for exchange, meaning a young person or vulnerable adult may carry out an activity due to fear of violence or retribution.