County Lines

Guest Blog

What are County Lines?

‘County Lines’ is a term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns Organised Crime Gangs (OCGs), often using violence to drive out local dealers and exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs. These dealers will use dedicated mobile phone lines, known as ‘deal lines’, to take orders from drug users. Heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine are the most common drugs being supplied and ordered. In most instances, the users or customers will live in a different area to where the dealers and networks are based, so drug runners are needed to transport the drugs and collect payment.

Signs to look out for:

There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is involved in County Lines:

  • Persistently going missing from school or home and being found in other areas
  • Unexplained money, new clothes or electronic devices
  • Receiving high numbers of texts or phone calls, being secretive about who they’re speaking to
  • Decline in school or work performance
  • Significant changes in emotional or physical well-being
  • Unexplained injuries


Dealers often entice the vulnerable person into allowing their home to be used for drug dealing by giving them free drugs or offering to pay for food or utilities.These OCGs are very selective about who they target as “cuckoo” victims. Often people they target are lonely, isolated, or frequent drug users themselves. The OCGs often operate from a property for a short amount of time, frequently moving addresses in order to reduce the chance of being caught.

Signs to look out for:

There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is a victim of cuckooing:

  • Frequent visitors at unsociable hours
  • Changes in your neighbour’s daily routine
  • Unusual smells coming from a property
  • Suspicious or unfamiliar vehicles outside an address

If you’re concerned about drug-related crime in your area or think someone may be a victim of drug exploitation, please call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report online or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

There are many organisations out there that can help you if you’re a victim of County Lines to;

Follow Thames Valley Police’s Stronghold activity on social media using #TVPStronghold and #countylines.