Gangs, Criminal Exploitation & County Lines

County Lines

County lines is the term used to describe how drugs are trafficked from cities into rural areas and towns, by street gangs, which exploit vulnerable children to do this. 

The National Crime Agency (the Government's crime -fighting unit) describes the way street gangs operate in their County Lines, Gangs and Safeguarding 2016 report.

More drugs are being sold in England and Wales and street gangs and gang culture are responsible for part of this problem, states a report by Pitts, 2008, Andell & Pitts 2010.

 There's research about Youth Gangs and Violence in Suffolk. The University of Suffolk and Public Health worked with us to find out about gang activity in Suffolk. This research helps to identify the size of the problem and how to prevent it, intervene and enforce the law to stop the trafficking in our county and nationwide.

The report published in September 2017, is below:

  • Preventing the Violent and Sexual Victimisation of Vulnerable Gang-involved and Gang-affected Children and Young People in Ipswich

Safeguarding Children and Young People at Risk of County Lines or Gang Involvement – Resource Pack

Here's guidance for agencies in Suffolk working with children and young people at risk from getting involved in county lines and gang activity.

There are three sections, what you need to know, what you need to do and resources.

Gangs and County Lines - Suffolk Response Teams

For information on how Suffolk is tackling Gangs and County Lines, visit Gangs and County Lines - Suffolk Response Teams


A PowerPoint presentation from Suffolk Youth Offending Service for professionals dealing with children and young people to: 

  • enhance knowledge of exploitation of children and young people; 

  • increase awareness of risk factors; 

  • enhance knowledge of services which can help too reduce the risks of gang involvement; 

  • information for who agencies can signpost to.

  • Velocity Leaflet County Lines - Briefing for Partners

For those working with children at risk covering: 

Guidance for frontline practitioners for those working in social care, police, health and education services. and covers: 

  • definitions of gang-related activity and risks; 
  • identifying persons most vulnerable;
  • ways service can refer and assess those they think are at risk (including an identification and referral flowchart); 
  • support for practitioners and interventions; 
  • the role of the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), and other agencies’ roles and responsibilities
  • HM Government - Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit

The toolkit is for frontline staff with safeguarding duties, working in law enforcement, social care, education and housing and voluntary sector and helps partners:

  • understand and access existing legislative opportunities at their disposal
  • to target specific risks and threats and locations of concern
  • understand many of the tools useful to disrupt sexual and criminal exploitation and break the cycle of abuse and send a signal to perpetrators about the consequences of their actions.
  • Home Office - What Works to Prevent Gang Involvement, Youth Violence and Crime

General information to further understanding of what works to prevent gang involvement and youth violence.

A report ion research concerned with young people living in community settings, with a focus on risks/protective factors in relation to youth violence and gang involvement.  .

A summary of the key findings in the above report.

This contains downloadable images, posters, booklets and social media resources specifically focused on:

Provides clear referral pathways for frontline practitioners to follow nationally and use as a best practice template, when responding to, and safeguarding children involved in county lines.

A short informative document highlighting the different stages of exploitation: 

  1. Targeting stage 
  2. Experience stage 
  3. Hooked stage 
  4. Trapped stage

A short document for professionals to use at strategy meetings, multi-agency meetings, or other settings where professionals might be discussing children and young people who are at risk of exploitation.



A toolkit for professionals explaining factors that increase vulnerability of being exploited.

A web page with a range of toolkits and guidance documents for professionals to inform good practice and support regional strategies.

For lawyers and professionals to help recognise children who may be victims of child criminal exploitation:

This guidance is aimed at frontline staff who work with children, young people and potentially vulnerable adults. 

It explores:

  • What County Lines means.
  • What is child criminal exploitation.
  • How does it affect young people and vulnerable adults.
  • Who is vulnerable to it.
  • What are the signs to look out for.
  • What to do if you are concerned.