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Child Criminal Exploitation & County Lines

We know that different forms of harm often overlap and that perpetrators may subject children and young people to multiple forms of abuse, such as criminal exploitation (including county lines) and sexual exploitation.

In some cases, the exploitation or abuse will be in exchange for something the victim needs or wants (for example, money, gifts or affection), and/or will be to the financial benefit or other advantages, such as increased status, of the perpetrator or facilitator.

Children can be exploited by adult males or females, as individuals or in groups. They may also be exploited by other children, who themselves may be experiencing exploitation – where this is the case, it is important that the child perpetrator is also recognised as a victim.

Whilst the age of the child may be a contributing factor for an imbalance of power, there are a range of other factors that could make a child more vulnerable to exploitation, including, sexual identity, cognitive ability, learning difficulties, communication ability, physical strength, status, and access to economic or other resources.

County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. This activity can happen locally as well as across the UK – no specified distance of travel is required.

Children and vulnerable adults are exploited to move, store and sell drugs and money. Offenders will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons to ensure the compliance of victims. Children can be targeted and recruited into county lines in a number of locations.

GET SUPPORT

You can contact Childline about anything. Whatever your worry, it’s better out than in. There are lots of different ways to speak to a Childline counsellor – we’re here to support you via email, chat or phone call via the Childline website here.

Further support for parents: The NSPCC website has advice about how to spot the signs of criminal exploitation and involvement in gangs and what support is available for children and young people. Visit their website here.