Home Office launches campaign to help taxi and private hire vehicle staff identify and safeguard victims of “County Lines”
Thousands of children and teenagers – some as young as 12 – are being exploited by criminal gangs to carry drugs from urban areas to coastal and market towns. Many of these children travel between the city and rural towns in taxis, in a criminal activity known as ‘county lines’.
Taxis are a popular form of transport for children being exploited by ‘county line’ gangs. Children may make the whole journey between the city and rural town in a private hire car or taxi, or else use one for part of the journey.
To help safeguard these vulnerable children and protect them from gangs, the Home Office, NALEO and CrimeStoppers are working to increase awareness among taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and licensing enforcement officers of the signs to spot a potential victim.
The signs to spot are:
- A children, normally 14-15 years old, but can be as young as 12 travelling a long train journey alone.
- They may be from another area, so may not be familiar with an area (may look lost) and may have a distinct urban accent
- They may be travelling during school hours or unusual hours (e.g. late in the evening)
- An obvious relationship with controlling, older individuals
- Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
- Excessive receipt of texts or phone calls
The Home Office has produced posters (https://goo.gl/RsMH4N) to help taxi and private licensed vehicle drivers and booking staff recognise the signs to spot potential victims. Taxi drivers who spot a vulnerable young person should report their concerns to CrimeStoppers.
This is just one part of the wider work the Home Office is doing to tackle County Lines, which is set out in the new Serious Violence Strategy (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/serious-violence-strategy) which includes:
- providing funding to establish the new National County Lines Co-ordination Centre to co-ordinate the police and wider law enforcement response to tackle County Lines;
- continuing to work with the Crown Prosecution Service and national police lead on the prosecution of county lines cases;
- undertaking awareness-raising activity to help young and vulnerable people understand how to avoid becoming involved and exploited by County Lines gangs.