Drugs are the scourge of any community and eliminating the networks responsible for their distribution is a constant battle for Thames Valley Police.
But the individuals and gangs peddling the illegal substances across towns like Leighton Buzzard are just the tip of an iceberg which starts in big cities like London and targets counties and towns for their activities.
Now Thames Valley Police has released a fascinating video explaining the County Lines - the name given to drug dealing where organised criminal groups (OCGs) use phone lines to move and supply drugs, usually from cities into smaller towns and rural areas.
A police spokesman said: “They exploit vulnerable people, including children and those with mental health or addiction issues, by recruiting them to distribute the drugs, often referred to as ‘drug running’.
“OCGs often use high levels of violence and intimidation to protect the ‘county line’ and control them. One of these forms of control exploits vulnerable people by using their home as a base for dealing drugs, a process known as cuckooing.”
Fans of TV shows such as The Wire will be all too familiar with the process. But now Thames Valley Police has released these lists of warning signs to watch for the activity in your area.
Signs to look out for:
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is involved in County Lines:
Persistently going missing from school or home and being found in other areas
Unexplained money, new clothes or electronic devices
Receiving high numbers of texts or phone calls, being secretive about who they’re speaking to
Decline in school or work performance
Significant changes in emotional or physical well-being
Dealers often entice the vulnerable person into allowing their home to be used for drug dealing by giving them free drugs or offering to pay for food or utilities.
These OCGs are very selective about who they target as “cuckoo” victims. Often people they target are lonely, isolated, or frequent drug users themselves.
The OCGs often operate from a property for a short amount of time, frequently moving addresses in order to reduce the chance of being caught.
Signs to look out for:
There are several signs to look out for that may indicate someone is a victim of cuckooing:
Frequent visitors at unsociable hours
Changes in your neighbour’s daily routine
Unusual smells coming from a property
Suspicious or unfamiliar vehicles outside an address
What to do if you are suspicious?
If you’re concerned about drug-related crime in your area or think someone may be a victim of drug exploitation, please call us on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report online or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Follow TVP’s Stronghold activity on social media using #TVPStronghold and #countylines.