WHAT IS COUNTY LINES?
Hollyoaks has been advised by The Children’s Society, which supports children affected by criminal exploitation.
County lines involves the grooming and exploitation of children, young people and vulnerable adults by organised crime groups, to move drugs across the country - including to coastal and rural areas and provincial towns - and then sell them using mobile phone ‘lines’.
The Children’s Commissioner has estimated that as many as 50,000 children are being exploited to take part in county lines operations in Britain and generally includes those who are in care, have been excluded from school, are in poverty or have learning difficulties.
Criminals involved in county lines also take over the homes of vulnerable people using threats, or by promising drugs, a practice known as ‘cuckooing’.
Exploited children may have to stay in these ‘trap houses’ for weeks at a time to sell drugs nearby.
Signs to be aware of:
• Unexplained money, new clothes, phones, jewellery, etc
• Going missing, coming home late or skipping school, college or work
• Multiple phones, constant notifications, worried reaction to phone ringing
• Change in behaviour - more secretive, withdrawn, or isolated from peers, or not mixing with usual friends.
• Being taken to parties, people’s houses, unknown areas, hotels, nightclubs, takeaways or out of area by unknown adults.
Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said:
“County lines exploitation can tear young lives apart.
“We support vulnerable children and young people who have been groomed with promises of money, drugs, friendship and status, then coerced using threats and violence.
“Any child in any community can be vulnerable to exploitation so it is fantastic that Hollyoaks is tackling this serious issue and we are delighted to be offering our support.
“We wanted to help the writers seize this golden opportunity to raise awareness of the signs of grooming among viewers including children, families, professionals and the public.
“We hope that in doing so it will improve their understanding of county lines and ultimately help ensure that fewer young people suffer the terrifying reality of exploitation.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT THE HOLLYOAKS PRESS OFFICE:
Lucy Connolly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Molyneux: email@example.com
Chelsea Yearsley: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Sands: email@example.com
Notes for editors:
For children/young people
Please talk to someone you trust – a parent, teacher or professional. They will be able to help. Your local council will also help keep you safe or you can call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.fearless.org to share concerns and get advice. If you are worried about your safety right now call 999.
For parents/carers/other adults
If you are concerned about a child’s welfare, contact your council’s social care department – see www.gov.uk/report-child-abuse
There is also advice available at www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-is-county-lines
If a young person is in immediate danger dial 999, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 to share non-urgent information with the police