County lines: protecting children and vulnerable people from exploitation

County lines is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas and market and coastal towns.

This is a major safeguarding issue, and is happening in Wiltshire so professionals and the wider community need to be aware and understand what it involves, be able to spot the signs and know how to respond to and report concerns. It involves child criminal exploitation (CCE) as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. Children affected by county lines will be experiencing trauma so this is likely to be apparent in their behaviour and presentation, but can be misunderstood.

Read our  Child Exploitation and Missing Children Strategy for 2019 – 2021 (which was signed off by Wiltshire’s Community Safety Partnership in early March 2019).  This  strategy  sets out our  intentions in how we will work together to keep children and young people in our county safe from exploitation and harm.  It also provides information about what we  know locally about the current level of threat and those most at risk.

Vulnerable Adolescents Contextual Safeguarding Panel

We now have a ‘Vulnerable Adolescents Contextual Safeguarding Panel’ (VACS) to ensure multi-agency information and intelligence is gathered and shared to identify children and young people who are vulnerable to exploitation. We will map hotspots, trends and risks in missing episodes, identify victim and perpetrator information and target criminal activity involving children including County Lines.

VACS replaces the Wiltshire’s Risk Management Panel (WRMG) and the Multi-Agency Child Sexual Exploitation meeting (MACSE) with a more strategic and tactical multi-agency focus, specifically around child exploitation.

Vulnerable Adolescent Risk Management Meetings (VARMM)

VARMM are held when groups of young people at risk of exploitation are identified via the Vulnerable Adolescents Contextual Safeguarding Panel (VACS) or MASH. They are chaired at Service Manager level and are multi-agency meetings. Find out more here:

Learn more about Vulnerable Adolescent Risk Management Meetings

VARMM – flowchart of activity

Read the updated Wiltshire and Swindon Children Missing from Home and Care protocol

Any practitioner working with a child who they think may be at risk of County Lines exploitation should follow their local safeguarding guidance and refer concerns to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) mash@wiltshire.gov.uk or 0300456 0108.

If you believe a person is in immediate risk of harm, you should contact the police on 999.

The Home Office has produced County Lines Guidance and information posters/leaflets: County Lines: protecting vulnerable people from exploitation and information leaflets for the private sector


What we can do together:

Become more aware and increase our understanding by looking at the Home Office guidance. Managers and practitioners should disseminate information and discuss with staff in meetings and reflect on cases in supervision if a young person is presenting with the signs that they are being exploited.

Sharing information and Intel with the Police:

  • Wiltshire Police have a Dedicated Crime Team (DCT) which specialises in tackling County Lines. Detective Sergeant Geoffrey Smith manages the team operations and is available for professionals to discuss any significant intelligence/concerns. Geoff should be invited to any S47 Strategy Discussions where there are County Lines concerns: geoffrey.smith@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk
  • For more general intelligence sharing, the police have set up a dedicated mail inbox for County Lines Intel: IntelHubSwindon@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk
  • Alternatively contact Nerea Tena who is a contact point for questions. Nerea can be contacted to establish any Intel/links about individual children in the first instance where there are concerns about County Lines exploitation: tena.martin@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk

Please use the Intel submission form to send information to Nerea. Intel Submission Form

Toolkits for Professionals:

Children & Young People Trafficked for the Purpose of Criminal Exploitation in Relation to County Lines – A toolkit for professionals


Further resources and guidance
can be found here: County Lines resources and guidance Children’s Society

Home Office County Lines Guidance

County Lines posters and leaflets

Resources for Private Security

Resources for Taxi and Private Hire

Resources for Bus and Coach Companies

Resources for Train Operating Companies

Resources for Private Landlords and Letting Agents