Children and vulnerable people are targeted and recruited as ‘drug runners’ to move drugs and cash.
The Organised Crime Group (OCG) uses dedicated mobile phone lines or ‘deal lines’ to receive orders and instructs the runners where to deliver the drugs. This may be to a local dealer or drug user, or a dealer or drug user in another county.
In some instances children will be trafficked to areas a long way from home using trains, buses and taxis, as part of the network's drug dealing business.
OCGs exploit vulnerable people by using their home as a base for storing and dealing drugs, a process known as cuckooing.
Gang members often convince vulnerable people to let their home be used by giving them ‘free’ drugs (and creating a debt bond), offering to pay for food or utilities or by pretending to be their friends.
Often these criminals target people who are lonely, isolated, or have addiction issues. It's common for them to use a property for a short amount of time, moving address frequently to reduce the chance of being caught.
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate County Lines gangs are operational in your neighbourhood.Find out more.
Cannabis cultivation refers to the practice and process of producing cannabis flowers from cannabis farms.
Criminals use ordinary homes, shops, warehouses and derelict buildings to create makeshift farms by installing high intensity lighting, ventilation and hydroponic systems. They are very dangerous places and pose a serious risk of fire as gas, electricity and water supplies are hacked and electrical circuits overloaded.
Often people working in the farms are victims of modern slavery. Typically, they are illegal immigrants who may have been trafficked to the UK for this purpose. These vulnerable people are viewed as cheap, expandable and easy to control labour. They are forced to live and work in appalling conditions with no basic human rights or freedoms.
There is always suspicious behaviour and tell-tale signs that indicate the presence of a cannabis farm. Find out more.
OCGs also exploit people financially, using them as ‘money mules’.
A money mule is a person who transfers stolen money on behalf of others, usually through their own bank account.
Criminals contact people and offer them cash to receive money into their bank account and transfer it to another account.
Money transferred by the mule is usually stolen and used to fund many different crimes.
Criminals often target young and vulnerable people who are likely to be in need of money. Often these people have no idea they are committing a crime.
Criminals often try to recruit by:
Unsolicited e-mails asking for assistance
Contact via social networking sites
False vacancies offering ‘quick cash’ on websites, in the press and on street signage
Once people become used in this way, it can be hard to stop. They could be attacked or threatened with violence if they don’t continue.