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County lines

Many street gangs are involved with the supply of drugs. This can be a way that gangs make money. Dealing in drugs, like running a business has many different roles and levels of people controlling the entire operation. County lines (also known as ‘going country’) are a tactic used by individuals, or more commonly by OCGs to establish a drug dealing operation in an area outside of their usual localities. This typically involves gangs moving their operations from large urban cities out into more remote rural areas – particularly coastal towns, market towns, or commuter towns close to large cities.

Preventing violence in schools and colleges can require a mix of universal, targeted or specialist interventions. School and college leaders should be able to:

  • develop skills and knowledge to resolve conflict as part of the curriculum;
  • challenge aggressive behaviour in ways that prevent the recurrence of such behaviour;
  • understand risks for specific groups, including those that are gender-based, and target interventions;
  • safeguard, and specifically organise child protection, when needed;
  • carefully manage individual transitions between educational establishments, especially into Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) or alternative provision; and
  • work with local partners to prevent anti-social behaviour or crime.

Preventing youth violence and gang involvement: Practical advice for schools and colleges, Home Office

Criminal exploitation of children is a geographically widespread form of harm that is a typical feature of county lines criminal activity: drug networks or gangs groom and exploit children and young people to carry drugs and money from urban areas to suburban and rural areas, market and seaside towns. Key to identifying potential involvement in county lines are missing episodes, when the victim may have been trafficked for the purpose of transporting drugs and a referral to the national referral mechanism should be considered. Like other forms of abuse and exploitation, county lines exploitation:

  • can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18
  • can affect any vulnerable adult over the age of 18 years;
  • can still be exploitation even if the activity appears consensual;
  • can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and is often accompanied by violence or threats of violence;
  • can be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, and young people or adults; and
  • is typified by some form of power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the
    exploitation. Whilst age may be the most obvious, this power imbalance can
    also be due to a range of other factors including gender, cognitive ability,
    physical strength, status, and access to economic or other resources.

Updates and changes


These pages are updated regularly and should be used as the main source of information.  Printed versions should be used with care as they can become out of date.