THE charity Crimestoppers has launched a campaign to highlight ‘County Lines’ and encourage the public to report their concerns.
County lines refers to gangs and organised criminal networks which send illegal drugs into suburban, rural and coastal areas, using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal line.”
The crime sees County Lines gangs exploit children and vulnerable adults to move drugs and money.
The gangs move into a rural or suburban area for a short time, taking over the home of a vulnerable person where they set up a base.
Many of those taken advantage of by these gangs have been forced to carry out criminal activity by threats, grooming and extortion and can be described as modern day slaves.
They are appealing for people to look out for:
• A child or young person (sometimes as young as 12), during school hours or unusual hours (e.g. early in the morning, late at night).
• A child or young person who seems unfamiliar with the local area?
• A child or young person being approached or intimidated by a controlling peer or group?
• A child or vulnerable person who is deliberately avoiding authority figures such as police officers or security guards?
• More people calling at a local address than normal? Sometimes at unsociable hours?
• Suspicious vehicles or people at an address?
• A neighbour has not been seen for a while?
A Crimestoppers spokesperson said: £If you see something concerning either a young or vulnerable person that doesn’t feel right, or looks suspicious, you can report your concerns 100 per cent anonymously to the charity Crimestoppers.
“You can contact us on 0800 555 111 or send an untraceable online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org.”