Lifting the lid on County Lines

18 September 2019

The Mayor of London has released new figures that reveal more than 4,000 vulnerable young people in London are being coerced or groomed into County Lines drug-trafficking activity, spread across 41 counties in the UK.

County Lines – a term for criminal gangs that prey on young people to help supply drugs across the country – is strongly associated with gang-related violence and the criminal exploitation of vulnerable young people. 

In 2018 the Mayor of London invested £3 million in a three-year Rescue and Response programme to better understand, target and respond to County Lines.

The programme is led by a coalition of London boroughs – Brent, Lewisham, Islington and Tower Hamlets – that help coordinate support across London for young people up to the age of 25.

Rescue and Response has lifted the lid on the true scale of County Lines activity across the UK, and its impact on vulnerable young people. 

  • In its first year, 568 young people were referred to the programme with children as young as 11 identified to have been coerced by criminal gangs.
  • Evidence shows that gangs target vulnerabilities in a young person’s life, including poverty, family breakdown, exclusion from school, drug addiction and learning difficulties.
  • Criminal networks are using several methods to groom young people and vulnerable adults, often through the offer of money or drugs. Victims are approached in schools, Pupil Referral Units, youth clubs and food outlets, and promised a fake lifestyle. 

Rescue and Response

Rescue and Response is a pan-London programme to support victims of County Lines - residents of any borough can be referred.

The programme delivers one-to-one support for young men and women, an out-of-hours phone support service, and an outreach ‘rescue’ team to collect young people from areas outside of London and begin putting a support package in place at the earliest opportunity – as well as debriefing the young person on how they came to be exploited and far from home.

Support is provided through: 

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