Working County Lines: Child Criminal Exploitation and Illicit Drug Dealing in Glasgow and Merseyside

Grace Robinson, Robert Mclean, James Densley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

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This article explores recent developments within the U.K. drug market: that is, the commuting of gang members from major cities to small rural urban areas for the purpose of enhancing their profit from drug distribution. Such practice has come to be known as working “County Lines.” We present findings drawn from qualitative research with practitioners working to address serious and organized crime and participants involved in street gangs and illicit drug supply in both Glasgow and Merseyside, United Kingdom. We find evidence of Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) in County Lines activity, often as a result of debt bondage; but also, cases of young people working the lines of their own volition to obtain financial and status rewards. In conclusion, we put forward a series of recommendations which are aimed at informing police strategy, practitioner intervention, and wider governmental policy to effectively address this growing, and highly problematic, phenomenon.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2018


  • gangs
  • county lines
  • child criminal exploitation
  • drug supply
  • organized crime


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