County Lines: Criminal Exploitation and Cuckooing

County Lines

County lines is the police term for groups who are supplying drugs to suburban areas and market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. It can involve child criminal exploitation and using adults who are vulnerable to move drugs and money. Groups establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as ‘cuckooing’.

Home Office County Lines guidance

County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, safeguarding, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery, and missing persons; and the response to tackle it involves the police, the National Crime Agency, a wide range of Government departments, local government agencies, voluntary and community organisations and groups. County lines activity and the associated violence, drug dealing and exploitation has a devastating impact on young people, adults at risk of exploitation and local communities.


Cuckooing is where criminals target the homes of people who are vulnerable in order to deal drugs from them.  Dealers often approach a person who is vulnerable, offering them free drugs in exchange for use of their home for dealing, the victims are often left with no choice but to cooperate.   Sussex Police have produced a series of posters and a leaflet explaining what cuckooing is.

Spot the signs cuckooing A3 leaflet

Detailed DL leaflet on cuckooing

Detailed A5 leaflet


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