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 may present with multi-faceted presentations involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and going missing. These children will be experiencing trauma so this is likely to be apparent in their behaviour and presentation, but can be misunderstood.
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.gcsx.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:
Become aware and understand 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 they are being exploited.
Share information and Intel with the Police:
Wiltshire Police have the Dedicated Crime Team (DCT) which specialises in tackling County Lines. Detective Sergeant Geoffery Smith firstname.lastname@example.org 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. For more general intelligence sharing, the police have set up a dedicated mail inbox for County Lines Intel mailto:IntelHubSwindon@wiltshire.pnn.police.uk and the analyst Nerea Tena (email@example.com) 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. Use the Intel submission form to send information to Nerea.
Contact your local Police Community Coordinator North East South West who deal with local policing responses and can highlight issues in weekly police tasking meetings. Emerald Team are currently piloting regular attendance in the weekly West CPT Tasking Meeting to share information. If team managers do not know who their local Community Coordinator is, make and set up routine
Highlight concerns/issues to the County Lines Working Group.
This meets each month to discuss strategy tactics and operational issues. It is Chair by Superintendent Sarah Robbins and attended by Police Community Coordinators, Blair Keltie, Emerald Team Service Manager, Laura Dixey YOT Teal Leader and managers from other agencies with safeguarding responsibilities. If you are aware of any concerns or experience issues with children affected by County Lines which you have not been able to resolve through the advice provide above, please advise Laura and Blair who can raise matters in the working group meeting.