Organised Crime Gangs (OCGs) use a number of methods to recruit young and vulnerable people and maintain their compliance.
In most cases some form of exchange is involved. This could be tangible such as money, drugs and clothes, or intangible, like protection, perceived friendship or affection.
OCGs use high levels of violence and intimidation to protect and control the ‘County Line’ and recruits are at risk of being exposed to many types of criminality including use of drugs, violence, sexual exploitation and modern slavery.
Who is most at risk of exploitation?
People of any age and gender can be targeted by County Lines Gangs.
Children aged 15-17 and drug addicts are commonly targeted as they are considered easier to control, exploit and reward.
Factors that increase a person’s vulnerability to exploitation include:
Economic difficulties / poverty
Homelessness or lack of a safe or stable home environment
Previous involvement with criminality or children whose parents are drug users or have connections with criminal gangs
Physical or learning disabilities
Mental health disorders
Being in care or subject to social services interventions
Excluded from mainstream education
Children without a criminal footprint and from seemingly stable backgrounds are also targeted as they are considered less likely to attract attention.
There are several signs that may indicate someone is involved in county lines: find out more
Use of Social Media
Recruitment may be face to face or via social media.
OCGs use social media in a number of ways:
Advertising drugs by sharing photos and videos
Statuses showing money, new drugs or when a dealer is open for business
Dealers sharing ‘stories’ to followers, using social platforms to expand their network with ‘suggested’ friends
using hashtags linked to drugs using emojis as code for drugs, violence and sexual activities, e.g. the snowflake emoji (for buying cocaine), 8-ball emoji (for buying an eighth of a gram) or the rocket emoji (for purity of drugs)