As the Policy and Investigations Lead for the National County Lines Coordination Centre, how do you see county lines’ gangs using technology?
The method of mass/bulk communication is at the heart of the county lines business model. Drugs are advertised, secured and distributed via a device, such as mobile phones – that’s where the name came from. County lines is operated like a business and makes a huge amount of money for the drugs networks.
Technology is also used for the recruitment of children and vulnerable adults to transport and deliver the drugs. Gangs can use social media to target, connect with and groom children. It isn’t the only method, nor necessarily the biggest, but it is one of the channels used. These platforms are also key places to display drug-related wealth and imagery and therefore glamorise a certain lifestyle and draw children in.
Sometimes exploiters use online gaming and games ‘chat’ forums to befriend and groom victims. They may also access online accounts to steal or delete online credit and possessions to coerce or blackmail children.
Police are actively seeking to identify perpetrators and those responsible for recruiting children or vulnerable adults for county lines, with a view to prosecuting them and holding them to account for their actions. It is a serious crime to target and exploit children in this way and the punishment is imprisonment, allowing police to safeguarding victims and prevent their continued exploitation.