News

County Lines and Social Media: How Gangs Are Targeting Children

County lines refers to the criminal activity of exporting drugs from a major city to rural areas such as towns and villages. To do this, drug dealers exploit young and/or vulnerable people to transport, store, or sell the drugs, ensuring that, they themselves, undertake as little risk as possible.

The government says:

County lines and COVID

Recent news has shed new light on county lines activity in recent months, including the concerning trends found among typical victims.

As the country marks the first year since lockdowns began, young people are more at risk than ever of being recruited by county lines gangs. Recent research has shown that offenders are increasingly targeting young people in their local areas as well as adopting more “creative” methods of approaching young people on social media platforms. The lack of sufficient support available to (potential) victims ensures these offenders have an increased chance of success in grooming their targets.

The study also suggests that the typical victim has changed: gangs are now targeting victims from more affluent backgrounds, as well as more females and younger children.

Understand your responsibilities

As senior leaders, headteachers, teachers, and TAs, it is your responsibility to understand county lines, its risks to your students, and how to identify the signs in your school.

Our most recent webinar on the subject, County Lines: Understanding How Criminal Gangs are Targeting Children Online, takes a deeper look at how the pandemic has affected children’s exposure to being targeted, with a focus on gangs’ online methods to exploit young people.

This webinar is delivered by Hazel Parkinson, a former county drugs coordinator, DSL, and pastoral manager. She explains how criminal gangs are using social media to recruit children as well as exploring how county lines may operate in the future, post-pandemic.

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