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Campaign to help local authority staff identify vulnerable tenants being exploited by 'County Line' gangs 18/04/2019 Labelled as Consultation, Tenants

Urban drug dealing gangs are moving into rural towns and coastal communities, where they take over properties - including housing managed by councils - and establish a base.


These gangs use a drug dealing model, known as 'County Lines', and generally coerce a vulnerable person, such as a drug user, or those with mental or physical health problems, to allow them to use their property as a base. These vulnerable people are then further exploited by the gangs to sell drugs on their behalf.


To help safeguard vulnerable people, the Home Office and CrimeStoppers are working with ARCH and the Local Government Association (LGA) to increase awareness among local authority staff of the signs to spot if a tenant is a victim of these criminal gangs. 


The signs to spot which may indicate a vulnerable tenant has had their property taken over by a county lines gang are:


  • A tenant starts receiving more visitors to their property
  • They receive visitors at unusual times of the day or night
  • A tenant's curtains or blinds are almost always shut
  • A tenant stops leaving their house
  • Suspicious smells coming from the property
  • An increase in anti-social behaviour in and around the property


Housing managers and enforcement officers may also encounter a vulnerable child in a house who is involved in county lines activity. They might exhibit some of these signs:


  • The child might seem unfamiliar with the area or not have a local accent
  • They have relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
  • Suspicions of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • They deliberately avoid authority figures such as police officers


The Home Office has produced a guidance booklet and posters to help housing management staff understand what county lines is and recognise the signs to spot potential victims. Staff should report concerns in line with their organisation's safeguarding policy.

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