What are county lines?

"County lines" is the term used to describe criminal gangs supplying drugs across the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines.

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What are county lines?

“County lines” refers to a crime where drugs gangs exploit children and vulnerable adults to make them courier drugs and money across the country from the gang’s base to customers in towns across Devon and Cornwall. The “county line” refers to the mobile phone line which is the link for the drugs gangs to sell drugs.

What is “cuckooing”?

Sometimes drug dealers will befriend a vulnerable person who lives on their own and take over their home and turn it into a drugs den. This is called “cuckooing”. Urban dealers often target homes of vulnerable people in small, rural and coastal towns where they can set up shop and sell drugs.

Know the signs of county lines and cuckooing - what should you look out for?

For a child or young person possible signs of county lines exploitation are:

  • Going missing from school or home
  • Significant changes in their emotional well-being
  • Meeting unfamiliar people
  • Changes in their behaviour
  • The use of drugs and alcohol
  • Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
  • Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associated with gangs
  • Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries

If you see or suspect any of these you can contact us on our non-emergency channels or report, 100% anonymously to Crimestoppers via their website or by calling 0800 555 111.

Know the signs – other things to look out for:

  • Lone children travelling long distances from outside the area
  • People with multiple mobile phones or tablets or ‘SIM cards’
  • Young people with money, expensive clothing, or accessories that they can’t account for

Know the signs - cuckooing

Signs of cuckooing include:

  • A neighbour has not been seen for a while
  • Unknown or suspicious looking people coming and going from a neighbour’s house at odd times of the day or night
  • Suspicious vehicles parked outside a house

What can I do?

We need your help to protect young and vulnerable people in our communities by understanding the signs outlined above and reporting anything suspicious.

To provide information or report anything suspicious:

Sources of help and advice


Crimestoppers is an independent charity that gives people the power to speak up and stop crime – 100% anonymously. They offer information about county lines and if you need help and support you can call them on 0800 555111 or contact them online via their website


Fearless is a website where young people can access non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality. The service is 100% anonymous


SafeCall is run by the Missing People helpline and supports young people and their families who have been affected by county lines. If you have been affected you can call 0208 392 5710 or email: safecall@missingpeople.org.uk


Childline is a free, private and confidential service where children and young people can talk about anything. You can call 0800 111 or contact them online for help, support and advice.

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