Leicestershire Police launch new county lines campaign
Police have asked the public to look out for signs of criminal exploitation in association with county lines.
County lines is the use of children and vulnerable people by gangs and organised criminal networks to move illegal drugs into our towns and cities.
It is a growing problem nationally, including within Rutland, Leicester and Leicestershire.
To export the drugs, criminals use children, young people or vulnerable adults to store and move them using coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.
In some cases the homes of vulnerable adults are taken over by the criminals as a base to sell drugs.
This is known as cuckooing.
Victims may be given rewards to keep them on side which can lead them to feel as though they are becoming trapped in a spiral of intimidation, fear and debt.
In addition, they may be forced to carry out other crimes including robbery or assault.
They may also be asked to store money and firearms.
Leicestershire Police and its partners are dedicated to tackling this form of criminal exploitation and are asking people to support the force’s #KnowtheSigns campaign and look out for potential victims.
Deputy Chief Constable for Leicestershire Police Rob Nixon, said: “County lines is a current but rapidly growing issue across the country.
"Here in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland we are working with our partners to identify those who are being exploited, along with the criminals responsible so that we can bring them to justice.
“By raising awareness of the signs to look out for, we hope that the public can help us be the eyes and ears within their communities to protect others from this controlling and extremely damaging activity. Among our priorities is to safeguard people from getting drawn into criminality in the first place.”
Signs to look out for which could mean a child or vulnerable adult is being criminally exploited through county lines include:
- Repeatedly missing from home or school and decline in academic performance;
- May be carrying a weapon;
- Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks; and
- Unexplained relationships with new or older people.
Signs to look out for which could mean the person is a victim of cuckooing include:
- Signs of drug use;
- Decline in a neighbour’s wellbeing;
- Increase in people or vehicles visiting a property; and
- Increase in anti-social behaviour.
Superintendent Shane O’Neill who leads the force’s Serious Harm Reduction Unit (SHRU), said: "Everyone can help by learning the signs and reporting any concerns they have either to ourselves, local authority or Crimestoppers anonymously.
"Everyone should feel a responsibility to look after their communities to protect children and vulnerable people."
To learn more, visit the police's dedicated COUNTY LINES website.
More by this authorAndrew Stone