Helping our communities tackle drug trafficking

Dangerous drug networks and county lines

Dangerous drug networks are run by criminal gangs and involve the production, transportation (also known as trafficking) and sale of illegal substances. These gangs exploit the people who they sell drugs to and those who they force to take part in their activities. These people may encounter abuse and violence from gang members. People are often groomed into being exploited by offers of free drugs and money.

County lines is a form of dangerous drug network. It involves transporting drugs from large urban areas to smaller towns and rural areas. County lines gangs exploit vulnerable children and adults, forcing them to transport and sell drugs. Gangs may take over someone’s house by force and use this as a base for drug dealing. This is called “cuckooing”.

Drug gangs are active in towns, villages and coastal areas across the South West, and drugs are being trafficked into Devon from across the country. Drug gangs operating in Devon are increasingly exploiting local young people and vulnerable adults.

Signs that a young person or vulnerable adult is being exploited could include:

  • Leaving home, staying out late, or going missing
  • Meeting up with new people, some of whom may be older, controlling or part of a gang
  • Having lots of new items such as money, drugs and expensive clothing
  • Using lots of mobile phones and receiving lots of calls
  • Becoming more aggressive or violent
  • Having signs of physical injury, which may be signs of abuse or punishment by drug gangs
  • Drugs are often transported on public transport networks. Look out for people (often children) travelling alone, who may appear unfamiliar with the area. They may have an accent which suggests that they are from another region  

Signs that a vulnerable adult is being cuckooed could include:

  • More people entering a property than usual, or leaving and arriving at unusual times. They might be strangers but claim to be a friend of the person living in the property
  • Noticing that the person living at the property has not been seen for a while
  • Suspicious items at the property, such as lots of mobile phones, drug equipment, cash, and other items of value

If you are concerned that someone is being exploited help is available.

What we are doing to tackle dangerous drug networks and county lines in Devon

We work with local, regional and national partners to raise awareness of county lines and drug trafficking within our communities, improve the reporting and understanding of the issue, reduce people’s vulnerability to being exploited, support and protect victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger contact 999.

If you are concerned about someone’s safety or welfare contact:

Crime Stoppers

Anonymous helpline for reporting information and suspicions

Helpline: 0800 555 111

Access the Crime Stoppers website

Devon and Cornwall Police

To report and seek advice about crimes, incidents and concerns

Call: 101 non-emergency number

Report via the online crime reporting form


Site where young people can anonymously report information and suspicions.

Access the Fearless website

Run Away Helpline

Confidential 24/7 helpline for people affected by issues such as drug exploitation who feel like, or have, run away, or are concerned about someone who has gone missing.

Call or text: 116 000

Access the Run Away Helpline website

The Children’s Society

Information and advice for parents and carers of children affected by county lines.

Access the The Children’s Society website

Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership

Information about the exploitation of children through county lines and links to support.

Access the Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership website

Torbay and Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership

Information about the exploitation of adults through county lines and links to support

Access the Torbay and Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership website