Trapped: The criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults

“County Lines” is a national term used by police and law enforcement to commonly describe the approach taken by gangs and criminal networks originating from urban areas, who travel to locations such as county or coastal towns to sell class A drugs. 

Gangs typically use children, young people and vulnerable adults to deliver drugs to customers and this often involves the child being subjected to deception, intimidation, violence, financial exploitation and grooming.

The county lines business model is linked by a marketed mobile phone line through which users phone for specific drugs to be supplied.

In Greater Manchester we recognise that the criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults is not only in relation to drugs but can include other forms of criminal activity such as arson, violent offences, storing firearms and holding money, amongst other forms of criminality. We also know that young people and vulnerable adults are not always moved to towns outside of Greater Manchester and that the exploitation can take place within our boundaries. The movement of a person for the purposes of exploitation is detailed in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 as a form of trafficking and slavery. 

Another form of criminal exploitation is ‘Cuckooing’ which involves gangs and criminal networks taking over the home of a vulnerable person and using their property as a base to store drugs, firearms and often run their criminal activity. 

Programme Challenger has developed the ‘Trapped’ campaign to raise awareness of all forms of criminal exploitation, in recognition that young people and vulnerable adults may feel ‘Trapped’ and need support to‘ find a way out’.

Programme Challenger will use the Trapped campaign to raise awareness of criminal exploitation amongst key partners in the statutory and voluntary sectors and to work with communities to ensure they feel confident about identifying and reporting their concerns.

Key to this is working with schools, youth centres, housing and drugs services to raise awareness with young people and vulnerable adults, to enable them to identify when someone is trying to exploit them and provide them with safe places to report their concerns. Programme Challenger will ensure that there is a co-ordinated, victim-centred approach to any reported case of criminal exploitation.

Trapped Campaign Media

The resources are based around two videos that highlight the different ways in which children, young people and vulnerable adults can be exploited by criminals.

"Trapped" is the first campaign video; the second is "The Present". Both are available below to view and share. Pleas do comment and offer any feedback or questions that you may have.

What does it feel like to be trapped with no escape route?

Crossing the line is one of a series of single voice plays researched with young people in Rochdale commissioned by M6 Theatre Company and produced in collaboration with Breaking Barriers

For access to the full resources visit

Crossing the Line

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