Working county lines: child criminal exploitation and illicit drug dealing in Glasgow and Merseyside

Grace Robinson*, Robert McLean, James Densley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


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)694-711
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
Issue number5
Early online date19 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Gangs
  • County lines
  • Child criminal exploitation
  • Drug supply
  • Organized crime


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