“County Lines” is the term used to describe a form of organised crime where criminals based in urban areas pressurise vulnerable people and children to transport, store and sell drugs in smaller county towns. It takes its name from the phone lines used by organised crime gangs to communicate between towns.
The day forms part of Project Shield, North Yorkshire Police’s response to county lines with safeguarding vulnerable people a priority together with the disruption of drug supply and bringing those responsible to justice.
Roadshows will be held at Harrogate railway station and Library Gardens from 10am until early evening where staff will also be promoting the “Trapped” campaign telling the story of how a teenage boy became groomed and trapped in a violent world of county lines drug dealing.
Officers have also carried out visits to the local homeless centre and soup kitchen in Harrogate to help raise awareness of the tactics used by dealers to recruit vulnerable people to sell drugs on their behalf.
Welfare checks on “cuckooing” victims also forms part of project Shield and visits to known and potential victims will be carried out by local officers. “Cuckooing” is the term used to describe a tactic used by drug dealers where they use threats and violence to take over the homes of vulnerable people to store and sell drugs.
Acting Inspector Ben Ralston of Harrogate Police, said:
By raising awareness of the methods used by these criminals and the signs to look out for, we want to protect vulnerable people from becoming involved in the first place, help them get out the often dangerous situations they find themselves in and encourage people to report information about drug dealing to the police.
There is lots of work going on behind the scenes to tackle drugs in Harrogate but we still need people to act as our eyes and ears and report any suspicious activity in their neighbourhood. A key priority for us is protecting the vulnerable and by knowing what to look for in their neighbourhood, local residents can help us build up a clear picture that will inform our enforcement and safeguarding activity.
What to look out for
The signs of cuckooing to look out for include:
- Increased callers at a property
- Increase in cars pulling up for short periods of time
- Different accents at a property
- Increased antisocial behaviour at a property
- Not seeing the resident for long periods of time
- Unfamiliar vehicles at the property
- Windows covered or curtains closed for long periods
Gangs are increasingly using social media to recruit children who aren’t typically vulnerable, so everyone needs to be alert to the following signs:
- Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area;
- Unexplained money, clothes, or mobile phones
- Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
- Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
- Leaving home / care without explanation
- Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
- Carrying weapons
- Significant decline in school results / performance
- Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
- Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being
If you suspect a child you care for or know is being exploited, please call the police on 101, if they are in immediate danger, always call 999
DO NOT approach anyone you suspect is involved in drug dealing. Please report it to the police on 101, or to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If a person is in immediate danger, always call 999.
Link to the “Trapped” campaign