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County lines

County lines is when criminals from larger cities expand their drug networks to other areas of the country – usually rural and suburban areas.

The crime is called county lines because dealers use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs. These criminals often exploit vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and money and regularly use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

County lines activity can still be exploitation even if it appears consensual. It can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and is often accompanied by violence or threats of violence.

Vulnerable adults who use drugs, are in financial difficulty or have mental health problems are at greatest risk of being exploited by county lines gangs. These adults are groomed through offers of ‘free’ drugs, causing them to accumulate debts which can only be paid off by participating in county lines activities (also known as debt bondage).

Sometimes drug dealers will take over the home of a vulnerable person – this is known as cuckooing.

Getting help

Preventing Exploitation Toolkit

If there is the potential for you to encounter people who are vulnerable to exploitation through your job, whether it's paid or voluntary work, please refer to this toolkit.

Devon and Cornwall Police

Devon and Cornwall Police provide advice for the public and professionals if you are concerned that someone may be at risk of being a victim of County Lines.



A charity that allows you to report crime 100% anonymously. You can also seek advice from them if you are worried that someone you know may be at risk of a crime.

0800 555 111

If you are concerned that an adult is at risk please call

0345 155 1007

or email

If it’s an emergency call 999