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Gang Crime and Exploitation

Last Modified November 13, 2019

 Gang Crime and Exploitation

  • This section includes:

    • Cuckooing
    • County Lines
    • Child Sexual Exploitation
    • Support


    Report any concerns at:

    • Hertsmere Borough Council: 020 8207 7801
    • Police: 101 (non-emergency)
    • Crimestoppers:  0800 555 111


    In an emergency call 999


    Cuckooing is the term used to describe the actions of people who take over the homes of vulnerable people in order to use and deal drugs.  The people taking over homes can be local, or urban gangs who travel to suburban areas to establish a base for dealing drugs.  As a result of these activities, those being “cuckooed” can suffer from abuse and exploitation.

    Like other forms of exploitation, cuckooing:

    • Can affect any vulnerable adult over the age of 18 years; vulnerable can include those who are isolated, have a physical disability, learning difficulties, drug or alcohol misusers, those living in poverty or have mental health needs
    • Can still be exploited even if the activity appears consensual
    • Can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and is often accompanied by violence or threats of violence
    • Can be done by individuals or group, males or females, and young people or adults
    • Involves some form of power imbalance in favour of those doing the exploitation
    • Can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18 years being used as drug runner


    County Lines

    County Lines is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas. It involves child criminal exploitation as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money.  Gangs establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion in a practice referred to as cuckooing.

    County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding issues, criminal and sexual exploitation, modern slavery and missing persons.

    One of the key factors found in most cases of county lines exploitation is the presence of some form of exchange (e.g. carrying drugs in return for something).  Where it is the victim who is offered, promised or given something they need or want, the exchange can include both tangible (such as money, drugs or clothes) and intangible rewards (such as status, protection or perceived friendship or affection).

    It is important to remember the unequal power dynamic within which this exchange occurs and to remember that the receipt of something by a young person or vulnerable adult does not make them any less of a victim.  It is also important to note that the prevention of something negative can also fulfil the requirement for exchange, for example a young person who engages in county lines activity to stop someone carrying out a threat to harm his/her family.

    The Hertsmere Community Safety Partnership is dedicated to supporting our residents and protecting them from exploitation.  We encourage people to tell us when they have any suspicions or concerns about one of their neighbours, family members or friends being “cuckooed” or recruited by gangs.

    The information you provide can remain anonymous.  You have the power to speak up for those who need protecting.

    Download leaflets here:

    • Cuckooing for neighbours v5
    • County lines leaflet



    We can support young people and adults to access support services if they want to get away from this exploitation.

    • Community Support Service provides advice, emotional and practical support for adults who are experiencing mental ill health or need help with their mental wellbeing:  Tel:  02037 273600 or 07950 215391
    • YC Herts Positive Alternatives programme for young people aged 11-17 who live or go to school in Hertsmere:  The YC Hertfordshire Positive Alternatives (+Alt) Project at 96 Shenley Road in Borehamwood is designed to raise awareness about the risks and realities of gang-related crime.


    The dynamic and interactive workshop sessions focus on:

    •  identity and belonging
    •  gang culture
    •  stereotypes and gender
    •  responsibilities
    •  county lines
    •  knife crime and reducing use of weapons


    There will also be discussions on healthy relationships, sexual health, drugs and alcohol, social media and Citizen Aid. For more information call 01442 454060 or email: yc.hertsmere@hertfordshire.gov.uk

    YC Herts

    • Childline 0800 1111 
    • Fearless provides young people with non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality


    Download leaflets here:

    • Keep your child safe during the holidays
    • Advice on gangs and drugs


    If you have safeguarding concerns for a child, young person or vulnerable adult then report these to:

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