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What is County Lines?

County lines is exploitative drugs supply and a growing issue across the UK – and Cumbria is no exception.

It describes a type of organised crime network that traffics drugs using dedicated mobile phone lines.

Typically, a ‘bulk text’ is sent out by a ‘line controller’ advertising the availability of heroin and crack which is then sold to users through local supply networks.

Crime groups sometimes exploit children and vulnerable adults to facilitate county lines by having them move and/or store drugs and cash, for example.

Our officers are disrupting county lines by identifying those involved and bringing them to justice or safeguarding them from harm and exploitation.

Operation Rampart is Cumbria Constabulary’s overarching response to this issue – ‘Defending Communities Against County Lines’ – where, all-year-round, officers from specialist and local policing teams identify, disrupt, deter and safeguard Cumbrian communities against this type of exploitative drugs supply.

Exploiting the vulnerable


A county lines crime group may exploit a child to move drugs or cash around; the child may use public transport or be transported by an adult or young person in a vehicle between exporting area and importing area.

Spot the Signs – Child / Young person being exploited
  • Changes in behaviour, such as being increasingly aggressive or disruptive.
  • Going missing, returning home late, skipping school and staying out all night.
  • Being found in other towns, villages and cities
  • Being found with drugs or unexplained cash.
  • Being secretive, being found with unexplained bus or train tickets, hotel cards or keys.
  • Unexplained gifts such as clothes and trainers.

Crime groups may target a vulnerable person in the area they want to operate in and take over their home as a base from where to sell drugs.

This will often involve violence, intimidation, harassment or the offer of money or drugs.

The use of such a property for drug dealing can leave the vulnerable person homeless and is known as “cuckooing”.

Spot the Signs – Vulnerable adult being exploited
  • Persistent visitors / unfamiliar ‘stayers’ at an address.
  • Pushing away trusted friendship groups.
  • New, unfamiliar circle of associates from outside the area.
  • Change in demeanour / risk taking / new interest in drugs etc.
  • Restricted living arrangements (living out of one room, visitors taking up sections of accommodation).

Associated risks of county lines drug supply

  • Increase in violence - where crime groups threaten and commit acts of violence against people who are indebted to them.
  • Increase in acquisitive crime – burglaries, robberies, thefts and shoplifting increase as those in debt look to get money for drugs or protection.
  • Impact on quality of life - with a potential increase in crime, anti-social behaviour and violence, the quality of life for those living and working in the area can significantly decrease.

What you can do:

The Constabulary has a proven track record of disrupting county lines, bringing offenders to justice and safeguarding the most vulnerable.

But officers and staff cannot do this alone and require support and information on what is happening in communities from vigilant members of the public.

There are a number of ways in which you can report suspicious or suspected drug activity. They include:

  • Phone police on 101. In an emergency dial 999.
  • Report online at cumbria.police.uk/reportit
  • Phone Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
  • Speak to a police officer or PCSO.
  • Attend your nearest front counter police station.

Protect yourself, your family, your friends and your community – together we can ensure that organised crime groups do not establish their drug supply operations within our communities.