Thousands of children and teenagers - some as young as 12 - are being exploited by criminal gangs to carry drugs from urban areas to coastal and market towns. Many of these children travel between the city and rural towns in taxis or private hire vehicles in a criminal activity known as 'county lines'.
To help safeguard these vulnerable children and protect them from gangs, the Home Office, Institute of Licensing and CrimeStoppers are working to increase awareness among taxi and private hire vehicle drivers, and licensing staff, of the signs to spot a potential victim.
Taxis are a popular form of transport for children being exploited by 'county line' gangs. Children may make the whole journey between the city and rural town in a private hire vehicle or taxi, or else use one for part of the journey.
The signs to spot are:
- a child, normally 14-15 years old, but can be as young as 12 travelling a long train journey alone
- they may be from another area, so may not be familiar with an area (may look lost) and may have a distinct urban accent
- they may be travelling during school hours or unusual hours (for example, late in the evening)
- an obvious relationship with controlling, older individuals
- suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
- excessive receipt of texts or phone calls
If you have any information on County Lines drugs networks, you can contact CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or via the anonymous online form