You are never to blame for your own exploitation, even though you may think it is your fault. This campaign has been created with insights from survivors of exploitation.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Please read the following advice:
It is very important that whatever choice you make, you ensure you put your safety as a top priority.
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We respond Mondays to Fridays. If you, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, please contact the authorities.
Advice and Support
These organisations offer help and have supported other people worried about weapons, gangs, going country and similar issues. Many of their caseworkers have experienced similar things to you and understand what you might have been through. Be reassured that they have supported many people in similar situations. Although you may be involved in a criminal situation, this does not necessarily mean you will be arrested. You can even contact some of these organisations anonymously.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 999.
Have info about a crime, want to tell someone, but don’t want your name involved? if you are aged 11-17, tell Fearless what you know, 100% Anonymously. They are not the Police, they are a charity. If you know or suspect someone who is exploiting young people, tell Fearless what you know.
A confidential, anonymous national helpline. Call or text 9am-11pm, 7 days a week. You don’t have to give them your name or any details. They can help you to talk through what is happening, and help you to understand what choices you have. They also have a one-to-one anonymous online chat function on their website
A free service that supports children and young people up until their 19th birthday. They are open 365 days a year 24 hours a day. Calls won't show up on your phone bill. Calls are free, and you can still call if you don't have credit. You can also email ChildLine, or chat to them online. They have a number of online resources to support young people including advice and information, access to message boards and practical tools. Childline’s confidentiality works differently to other organisations. Young people have a safe space to talk about things they may not have shared with anyone else. They are here to build trust and empower young people by listening to them, they can help you access the right support agencies.
Support for young people worried about weapons, gangs, going country and similar issues. If things are complex and you are having difficulty managing the situation by yourself, or if the safety of you and your family is at risk, St Giles can support you. Many of their support workers have walked in your shoes, come from similar communities and really understand what’s going on for you. If you or someone you know needs help and would like to refer to their services, please email St Giles. This inbox is monitored Monday – Friday, 9am-5pm.
One to one specialist support to young people under the age of 25. They can help you reduce and exit your involvement in county lines activity. They have specialist female and mental health caseworkers. By accessing their service, you will benefit from: better engagement with other agencies, education, and employment opportunities; increased resilience and better emotional and mental well-being; better relationships between you and your parents and / or carers. You can refer yourself in using this form:
If you’re struggling with your feelings, you're not alone. Young Minds have loads of practical tips and advice from young people just like you, as well as information on getting the support you need. Whether you want to understand more about how you're feeling, get information about a mental health condition or find out what support is available to you, Young Minds guides can help.
Information about Criminal Exploitation and County Lines
- running a line
- going OT/out there
- going country
- going cunch
Anyone can be exploited by criminal exploitation and county lines – it does not matter where you are from or what your background is.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
When young people are used by older people, criminals or gang members to carry out criminal activity, professionals call this Criminal Exploitation.
This might include:
- Carrying weapons or money
- Carrying or selling drugs
- Carrying out robberies or violent acts
When older people, criminals, or gang members befriend young people and manipulate them into moving and selling drugs across the country.
It often involves the illegal movement of drugs from urban areas to smaller towns, or rural areas.
Professionals call this County Lines – the ‘lines’ refer to the mobile phone lines that are used.
County Lines is a form of criminal exploitation.
There are many ways people might be lured and trapped into exploitation.
Young people are often targeted in fast food restaurants, shopping centres, parks and estates.
People are also targeted online, on social media platforms such as Tik Tok, gaming platforms and online marketplaces.
Sometimes, young people may seek out this work themselves, not knowing that this may turn into an exploitative situation.
For all these reasons, it is very important to be aware of the risks involved, and the support available.
Sense of belonging – You may be attracted to joining a friendship group that are involved in criminal activities such as drug dealing and weapons, by the prospect of belonging to a ‘family’ that will protect you if your own family doesn’t feel safe or reliable.
- Although it might seem like these people are protecting you now, they might expect you to do things in return which you don’t feel comfortable doing.
- Once you are part of this ‘family’, they might try to trap you, by making you feel unable to leave.
Glamorisation– People are drawn in by images of a certain lifestyle, such as money, cars, and shoes, often bragged about on social media.
- You may see this as a way out of a difficult financial situation, or a way of helping your own family financially.
- However, staged muggings are a common control method used by perpetrators- you might be trusted with something valuable, which will then be stolen from you. These new friends, or ‘family’, will become angry and violent and tell you that you need to pay back the money for the items – by doing more work for them.
- This could mean you will never end up making any money and will spend long periods of time paying back what was stolen.
- Young people can be taken to locations far from home for long periods of time. Often, people are forced to stay in unfamiliar places like hotels, BnBs and Trap Houses or Bando’s, which are buildings used to sell or make drugs and are often occupied by drug users.
Grooming – grooming happens when someone builds a trusted relationship with a young person in order to manipulate them or try and get them to do things.
- These things can be sexual, financial, or illegal acts.
- You can be groomed both online and in person.
- Perpetrators may buy you gifts such as trainers, gadgets, and food in order to make you feel special.
- This may lead to you feeling a sense of belonging, and feeling as though you are loved, or part of a family.
- You can also be groomed into what they believe is a romantic relationship, which then leads to exploitation.
- After a while, this relationship often becomes toxic, and that person you thought was looking out for you might start to use threatening or violent behaviour, sexual violence, or blackmail.
- Criminals often know you could be feeling like you have no one or no sense of belonging and will target people in this situation.
Perpetrators of these crimes are dishonest people. They often use tactics to make people feel trapped, controlled, and like they have no way out.
This might be by threats of violence, making you feel like you are betraying your new ‘family’, or telling you that you will get in trouble if you seek help because you have committed a criminal offence.
Threats of violence – Gang members will often use threats of violence to the young person and their family members, to prevent them from leaving or telling anyone about what has happened.
Psychological pressure – perpetrators will tell you that it is too late to back out or get help, as you have committed crimes and will be arrested. However, there is support available for people in your situation, and you will be treated as a victim and not a criminal.
Staged Muggings and Sexual Abuse are other tactics that perpetrators use to make people feel like they can’t leave or get help.
As well as young people being used to transport drugs, perpetrators might sexually exploit young people, of any gender.
Sexual abuse is when someone is forced, pressured, or tricked into taking part in any kind of sexual activity. It could be online or in person, and it can happen to anyone.
People exploited by county lines or criminal exploitation may be forced into sexual activity with their new ‘friends’, or members of gangs.
You may have heard of the terms ‘plugging’ or ‘bagging’ before. This is when drugs are inserted into the bum or vagina. It can be very dangerous and is now considered a form of sexual abuse.
Young people can also be made to work off drug debts, or debts from forced muggings through sexual exploitation, as ‘payment’.
Perpetrators sometimes force young people to open new bank accounts or use existing bank accounts and then transfer money earned from drugs or criminal activity into these accounts.
This can result in bank accounts being shut down, and young people being unable to set up new accounts when they need them, for jobs or to pay bills.
Money made from the kind of criminal activity mentioned above can be taken away at any point – either by the police, by bank accounts being shut down or through robberies.
Money made from crime can’t be used to save up for important things in life, such as bills, essential items, a house or holidays. This is because this is money which has been made illegally, and there are laws and checks in place to prevent this.
If you or your family are struggling financially, never feel pressured to get involved in criminal activity. Reach out to a teacher, youth worker, any of the organisations listed above, or anybody else that you trust, to ask for help.
Are you worried about a friend, classmate, or someone you know?
Noticing these changes in your friends, classmates, or someone you know might not always mean that they are being exploited. However, if you spot some of these signs and are unsure what is going on, there are a range of people and organisations who can help and support you.
Make an anonymous report on The STOP APP
Report an incident, story, or something you have seen anonymously on the STOP APP.
The STOP APP enables anybody who knows, has seen or even heard a situation that they believe to be exploitation, to talk about it in a safe and secure space. There will be no record of the report submitted on your phone.
You do not have an obligation to make a report on the STOP APP. However, by sharing what you have seen or heard in a safe way, you could help others who are in a bad situation. Make sure you are in safe place away from the suspected incident when making the report.
STOP THE TRAFFIK is not a rescue organisation, and this app is not monitored 24/7 but will be checked on the next working day.
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