Dorset Police has launched the next phase of their campaign to raise awareness of dangerous drug networks – known as “county lines” – and how members of the public can help spot the signs of criminal exploitation happening in our communities.
Superintendent Caroline Naughton explains: “The next phase of our campaign focuses on transport links. Young, vulnerable people are often transported across our counties using public transport including trains, buses, or private hire taxis.
“We are asking taxi drivers, rail staff and bus company staff to spot the signs of county lines exploitation and look out for these vulnerable young people. If they spot anything which makes them suspicious, such as children travelling alone on public transport, possibly during school hours, or being unfamiliar with the local area, they should report it to us.”
‘County lines’ is a term used to describe urban gangs supplying drugs to other parts of the UK using dedicated mobile phone lines. The gangs are likely to exploit children or vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and they will often use violence and coercion.
This is a national issue and Dorset Police has been working to identify criminal gangs using the county lines operating model across the county, protecting vulnerable people who are at risk of exploitation, and enforcement and disruption activity targeting those who pose the most risk to the communities of Dorset.
Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “County lines is a problem which ruins lives. Not only does it bring the scourge of drug dealing into our towns, but the gangs who operate these networks are absolutely ruthless in the way they exploit young and vulnerable people.
“It’s a growing problem, and one the police simply cannot tackle on their own. We need the support of everyone who cares about our communities, and that’s why we’re asking members of the public to be our eyes and ears and to contact the police if they see anything that doesn’t look right.
“The information they provide could help bring gang members to justice and turn around the lives of those young people they have coerced into working for them.”
Some of the signs of ‘county lines’ involvement and exploitation are:
A child or young person going missing from school or home or significant changes in emotional well-being
• A person meeting unfamiliar adults or a change to their behaviour
• The use of drugs and alcohol
• Acquiring money or expensive gifts they can’t account for
• Lone children from outside of the area
• Individuals with multiple mobile phones, tablets or ‘SIM cards’
• Young people with more money, expensive clothing, or accessories than they can account for
• Unknown or suspicious looking characters coming and going from a neighbour’s house
• Relationships with controlling or older individuals or associations with gangs
• Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
What can you do?
If someone is showing signs of mistreatment, if a child seems to be travelling long distances or is unfamiliar with a locality, the best advice is to trust your instincts and report your suspicions to the police online or by calling 101. Suspicious behaviour on the rail network can be reported to British Transport Police by texting 61016.
Alternatively, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Further information on County Lines can be found on the Dorset Police website: https://www.dorset.police.uk/help-advice-crime-prevention/safety-in-your-community/county-lines/