sad woman sitting alone in a empty room

County Lines And Criminal Exploitation

County Lines And Criminal Exploitation

County lines is a term used to describe a type of criminal activity where drug dealers from urban areas exploit vulnerable people, including children and young people, to sell drugs in smaller towns and rural areas. The term “county lines” refers to the phone lines that the dealers use to communicate with their customers.

Criminal exploitation, also known as child criminal exploitation or CCE, is a form of child abuse where children and young people are exploited by criminals to commit crimes. This can include drug dealing, theft, or other types of criminal activity.

The exploitation often involves grooming, intimidation, and coercion. Children and young people who are at risk of being exploited may have a range of vulnerabilities, such as being in care, having mental health issues, or being homeless.

The exploitation of children and young people for criminal purposes is a serious problem, and it is important for communities, law enforcement agencies, and social services to work together to protect vulnerable individuals and prevent these types of crimes from taking place.

County Lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs.

The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs. Importing areas (areas where the drugs are taken to) are reporting increased levels of violence and weapons related crimes as a result of this trend.

Children as young as 12 years old have been exploited into carrying drugs for gangs. This can involve children being trafficked away from their home area, staying in accommodation and selling and manufacturing drugs.

The Meaning Of the word Cuckooing

Criminal gangs are targeting the homes of vulnerable people to be used for drug dealing – a process known as “cuckooing” (after the bird that invades other bird’s nests) and victims are often left with little choice but to cooperate. Dealers often approach the vulnerable person offering free drugs to use their home for dealing or in some instances after providing ‘free’ drugs, will then force the person to deal for them in order to ‘re-pay’ their drug debts. These criminals are selective about who they target, a lot of the time victims are lonely, isolated, frequently drug users themselves and are already known to the police. “Cuckooing” means the criminals can operate from a property rather than the street, which is out of sight from the police making it an attractive option. They can then use the premises to deal drugs from, which is difficult for the police to monitor and they often will only stay for a short period of time. What to do if you suspect a property is being ‘cuckooed’?  Call Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency to report drug-related information.

How do you know if County Lines drug dealing is happening in your area?

An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat New faces appearing at the house or flat New and regularly changing residents (e.g different accents compared to local accent) Change in resident's mood and/or demeanour (e.g. secretive/ withdrawn/ aggressive/ emotional) Substance misuse and/or drug paraphernalia Changes in the way young people you might know dress Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable new things (e.g clothes, jewellery, cars etc) Residents or young people you know going missing, maybe for long periods of time Young people seen in different cars/taxis driven by unknown adults Young people seeming unfamiliar with your community or where they are Truancy, exclusion, disengagement from school An increase in anti-social behaviour in the community Unexplained injuries

Exploitation of young and vulnerable people

A common feature in county lines drug supply is the exploitation of young and vulnerable people. The dealers will frequently target children and adults - often with mental health or addiction problems - to act as drug runners or move cash so they can stay under the radar of law enforcement. In some cases the dealers will take over a local property, normally belonging to a vulnerable person, and use it to operate their criminal activity from. This is known as cuckooing. People exploited in this way will quite often be exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse, and in some instances will be trafficked to areas a long way from home as part of the network's drug dealing business.  As we have seen in child sexual exploitation, children often don't see themselves as victims or realise they have been groomed to get involved in criminality. So it's important that we all play our part to understand county lines and speak out if we have concerns. 

Blue light flasher atop of a police car. City lights on the background.

Police powers to stop and search: YOUR RIGHTS

Police powers to stop and search:

The police can stop and question you at any time – they can search you depending on the situation.

A police community support officer (PCSO) must be in uniform when they stop and question you. A police officer doesn’t always have to be in uniform but if they’re not wearing uniform they must show you their warrant card.

Stop and search powers help the police to tackle crime. It’s targeted and intelligence-led and practised on people who are suspected of being involved in crime. Find out how it helps to keep our streets safe and what to expect if you are stopped.

Stop and question: police powers

A police officer might stop you and ask: what your name is what you’re doing in the area where you’re going You don’t have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search or arrest you.

Stop and search: police powers

If you get caught up in knife crime, you're not just going to get a slap on the wrists. It doesn't matter if it's for your own protection or if you are carrying a knife for someone else. Just carrying a knife can get you sent to prison for up to four years, even if you don't use it.

Your rights when being questioned

The police may question you about the crime you’re suspected of - this will be recorded. You don’t have to answer the questions but there could be consequences if you don’t. The police must explain this to you by reading you the police caution: “You do not have to say anything. But, it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”

Beforeyour searched

Before you’re searched the police officer must tell you: their name and police station what they expect to find, for example drugs the reason they want to search you, for example if it looks like you’re hiding something why they are legally allowed to search you that you can have a record of the search and if this isn’t possible at the time, how you can get a copy

Removing clothing: police powers

A police officer can ask you to take off your coat, jacket or gloves. The police might ask you to take off other clothes and anything you’re wearing for religious reasons - for example a veil or turban. If they do, they must take you somewhere out of public view. If the officer wants to remove more than a jacket and gloves they must be the same sex as you.

Your rights in custody

The custody officer at the police station must explain your rights. You have the right to: get free legal advice tell someone where you are have medical help if you’re feeling ill see the rules the police must follow (‘Codes of Practice’) see a written notice telling you about your rights, eg regular breaks for food and to use the toilet (you can ask for a notice in your language) or an interpreter to explain the notice You’ll be searched and your possessions will be kept by the police custody officer while you’re in the cell.

Young people under 18 and vulnerable adults

The police must try to contact your parent, guardian or carer if you’re under 18 or a vulnerable adult. They must also find an ‘appropriate adult’ to come to the station to help you and be present during questioning and searching. An appropriate adult can be: your parent, guardian or carer a social worker another family member or friend aged 18 or over a volunteer aged 18 or over The National Appropriate Adult Network provides appropriate adult services in England and Wales.

Flur in einer Justizvollzugsanstalt

Under 18 and have been detained in police custody

If you are under 18 and have been detained in police custody in the UK, it is important to know your rights and seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Under UK law, anyone who is arrested or detained by the police must be informed of their rights. If you are under 18, the police must inform your parents or guardian that you have been arrested or detained as soon as is practicable.

You have the right to free legal advice if you are detained by the police, and this includes if you are under 18. You can ask for a solicitor to be present during any police interviews, and you have the right to remain silent if you choose to do so.

If you are under 18, the police are required to make arrangements for your welfare while you are in custody. This includes providing appropriate accommodation, food and drink, and medical treatment if necessary. They must also make sure that you are not held in police custody for longer than is necessary.

If you feel that your rights have been violated or that you have been treated unfairly while in police custody, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. You can contact a solicitor or a legal advice service, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or a youth advocacy organisation, for assistance.


Men in Sheds, Erith

Podcasting in the community of Erith. Delivered in partnership with Bexley Community Safety Partnership. Interviews include some key people from the local area of Erith.

Podcasting has become a popular way of addressing topics. It has become an important tool in communication. Podcasting can promote important discussions in a safe and comfortable environment. Many platforms that focus on podcasting as a medium are reaching audiences that were previously hard to attract.

Youth unity have used podcasting as a positive way of teaching young people that communicating effectively and raising awareness about topics that affect your immediate surroundings are a good way of creating change. 

The core focus of using podcasting as a medium is to enable people of all ages to share the experience of talking together irrespective of age, gender or ability. The outcomes are measured in the recordings and can be an effective way of bridging the gaps in our communities. 

The other benefits of using podcasting with young people is that it provides them with a new skill set that can be transferred into every aspect of their lives. Communication is the key to almost every career and the better you are at it the more opportunities are available. 

This podcast is working with AgedUk, based in Erith.  Whereby they run an amazing project called “Men in Sheds”.   The young people had some great questions to ask with some interesting thought provoking answers.


The BubbleDome


The DOME is 50×50 ft and can comfortably hold up to 100 standing, and around 60 with a bar and 40 with four tables of 10

We have access to music for all genres and age groups.

We also can supply entertainment live music, and much more

We are able to create a tent tailored to the needs of each client. Create structures together with the client , taking into account the wishes and preferences.

it takes approximately 1 hour to errect

Everything  is possible. The space is open to creativity and its possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

We hire furniture and lighting at an additional cost

We supply a generator to power the DOME when there is no electricity supply, but this is to power the DOME ONLY 

We will supply you with a risk assessment sheet to ensure your guests are safe, but we are able to put the DOME on most spaces

Yes at an additional charge

We hold a public liability insurance for the event space and will need to discuss if you are hiring this DOME to charge tickets.

Booking Terms & Conditions

Booking Form

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Ninefield Friday Night Sessions

Friday Night Sessions at Ninefields Estate

On Friday nights for a limited period, Youth Unity are hosting a range of activities. Sports will be used to properly engage with young people. 

There will be a sports coach present to get the young people moving and engaged. We aim to get them involved, on their feet and ready to have fun.

The UnityHub will be present on some sessions for those who are more passionate about music. The bus is equipped with a fully functioning studio and acts as a space where young people can learn the fundamentals on how to make beats.

A safe space for young people to have fun, in an environment where they can be themselves.

We can signpost both parents and young people to services for support, in the local area.

Working in partnership with Epping Forest District Council as part of the wider Safer Streets project


Chicken Shop Grooming

‘Chicken shop grooming’ is a form of child exploitation prevalent throughout the UK, which has not received widespread public attention until recently. Young people on their way home from school are bought food by an acquaintance or stranger over a number of days and start to unknowingly accrue debt.

Paul McKenzie

karma photo

Crippled Karma – Victims of Serious Youth Violence have a voice too

This short film by Paul Mckenzie asks the question. What happens to the victims of violence? Far too often there are victims of senseless violence that feel that they have no voice. This follows the journey of a group of individuals that through destiny are reunited for all the wrong reasons. With the level of serious violence on our streets and in our houses, this short film is an insight into what a victim may feel like, and more strikingly what a victim would consider to be justice.

The film was made as a tool to teach young people and adults that we must take a different perspective when we consider how victims of violence are affected longterm.

he cast members included Abdi Omar a young man who was born with cerebral palsy. The opportunity helped him to overcome the stereotype that people with disabilities cannot take part in acting.

Three of the other cast members are autistic and they were also able to contribute fully towards the making of this short film called Karma.

william-landscape-flyer copy

Short Film About Making Right Choices

William - A short story of making the right choices - Produced by Paul McKenzie

This film is part of an interactive workshop. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

‘WILLIAM’ is a hard-hitting production that aims to raise awareness, kick-start conversations and build resilience around youth violence – with a focus on grooming and county lines – as part of a public health approach to tackling the issue – an issue that is seeing young people targeted. Children and young people involved with gangs and criminal exploitation need help and support. They might be victims of violence or pressured into doing things like stealing or carrying drugs or weapons. They might be abused, exploited and put into dangerous situations.

The production be targeted at two different groups:

  • Young people (year 13+) 
  • Parents, carers, teachers & professionals working with children & young people 

WILLIAM is a young man with a great future as a professional footballer. He lives in a community that is suffering the impact of serious youth violence and grooming. Many of the youth are already aware that there are “olders” that target young people to join county lines.
William is the victim of this.

He is being pressured to sell drugs on his local estate. William is reluctant to continue and has chosen to confront his manipulative older.  The story highlights the pressures that young people face and the choices they have to make.

William is also being pressured by his girlfriend to buy her gifts and he can only do this by selling drugs to raise the money.

This short film highlights the challenges involved in making the right decision to refuse the lure of groomers. 

The short film aims to:

  • Raise awareness around the risks and consequences of criminal explolitation in young people on the individual and on their friends, families and on the wider community

  • Build resilience by raising awareness, creating a common language and kick-starting conversations around the influencesfears and pressures that can lead to the decision to hurt someone or to carry a knife and how these can be managed or avoided

  • Build resilience by raising awareness of and promoting the core skills (including but not limited to: self-confidence, self-esteem, risk assessment, emotional intelligence, empathy, decision making, recognising healthy relationships) that can be used help young people to navigate a whole host of issues, critical moments and adverse childhood experiences that they may encounter

  • Raise awareness around the importance of seeking help and advice or telling someone if they are concerned about themselves, a friend or someone they know.


There are several reasons why making the right choice can be difficult:

  • Complexity: Many decisions involve multiple factors and considerations, making them complex. It can be challenging to weigh the pros and cons, assess risks, and anticipate potential outcomes.
  • Uncertainty: The future is unpredictable, and decisions often involve unknown variables. The lack of complete information can make it difficult to determine the best course of action.
  • Emotional factors: Emotions can cloud judgment and influence decision-making. Fear, stress, or personal biases can impact our ability to objectively assess the situation and make rational decisions.
  • Consequences: Decisions often have consequences, and the fear of making the wrong choice can lead to decision paralysis. The fear of making a mistake or regretting a decision can make it hard to move forward.
  • Pressure: External pressures, such as societal expectations, opinions of others, or time constraints, can add to the difficulty of decision-making. Feeling pressured to meet certain standards or expectations can create stress and impact decision-making.

Despite these challenges, there are several strategies that can help in making better decisions, such as gathering information, considering different perspectives, evaluating pros and cons, seeking advice from trusted sources, and taking the time to reflect and weigh the options. It’s important to remember that making mistakes is a part of the learning process, and sometimes, there may not be a single “right” choice. The key is to approach decision-making with a thoughtful and rational mindset, considering all available information and taking responsibility for the choices made.