South Yorkshire Police Force is currently focusing on making people aware of the details of exploitation of vulnerable adults and children in particular, who are being forced to sell drugs. Exploitation techniques usually involve members of organised crime groups coercing vulnerable adults and young people into selling drugs on their behalf and often making them travel across the country in an effort to gain more contacts and expand their enterprise.

County Lines refers to the phone lines connecting people dealing drugs in different areas. This is a form of Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) that involves urban gangs forcing children and sometimes vulnerable adults, to move and store money and drugs. They will often employ intimidation, violence and weapons but it is also vital to note that CCE does not always involve physical contact; it can also be facilitated with the use of technology.

There are some key signs to look out for that could possibly indicate that someone has been targeted by a gang and has become a victim of CCE:

  • Have they become involved with older people or groups of new ‘friends’ who appear to be quite controlling?
  • Do they have new clothes, phones or money, but can’t explain where they came from?
  • Is the person or child going missing from home / school on a regular basis?
  • Are they being particularly secretive about texts and calls they are receiving? Have the texts and calls suddenly become more frequent? Have you noticed any significant changes in their behaviour?

The unfortunate reality is that anybody can be a victim of CCE. The past has seen young boys being targeted but police intelligence now indicates that criminal groups are pursuing “clean skins. This term refers to young boys and girls, who are unknown to police or any other partner agency. In order to be able to successfully identify both the victims and criminals, South Yorkshire Police are asking members of the public and professionals, such as teachers, to make themselves aware of the nature of CCE and County Lines and the triggers and signs to watch out for. It is vital that if anyone has concerns or is worried about someone that they speak up and confide in somebody such as a parent, teacher or any trusted adult or professional.

If you are concerned about anyone you can contact the police on 101 or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Further information can be found at  #CountyLines across South Yorkshire Police social media channels.