County Lines & Cuckooing

County Lines

‘County lines’ is a term used when drug gangs from big cities expand their operations to smaller towns, often using violence to drive out local dealers and exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs. These dealers will use dedicated mobile phone lines, known as 'deal lines', to take orders from drug users. Heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine are the most common drugs being supplied and ordered. In most instances, the users or customers will live in a different area to where the dealers and networks are based, so drug runners are needed to transport the drugs and collect payment.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has more information about county lines and how to spot the signs that it’s happening, as well as how to report concerns.

The best advice is to trust your instincts. Even if someone isn't involved in county lines drug dealing, they may be being exploited in some other way, so it's always worth speaking out.


Professional criminals are targeting the homes of Adults with care and support needs so that the property can be used for drug-dealing – a process known as 'cuckooing'.

Reporting any suspicious drug-related behaviour may assist in making your neighbourhood a safer place as professional criminals are using the homes of victims to manufacture and sell drugs.

These criminals are very selective about who they target as 'cuckoo' victims and are often entrepreneurial. A lot of the time victims are lonely, isolated, frequently drug users themselves and are already known to the police. Dealers often approach the victim offering free drugs to use their home for dealing.

'Cuckooing' means the criminals can operate from a discreet property, which is out of sight, making it an attractive option. They can then use the premises to deal and manufacture drugs in an environment under the police radar, usually staying for just one day.

When the criminals use the victim’s property for criminal enterprises, the inhabitants become terrified of going to the police for fear of being suspected of involvement in drug dealing or being identified as a member of the group, which would result in their eviction from the property.

Below are some important signs to look out for if you feel you are living within or near a property used to deal drugs, or if you are concerned about your property as a landlord or property manager.

We are asking that you stay aware and spot potential signs of drug dealers near you.

Signs to look out for:

  • usually takes place in a multi-occupancy or social housing property
  • an increase in the number of coming and goings
  • offenders will often have new vehicles outside the property, frequently use taxis or hire cars
  • possible increase in ASB activity in and around the property
  • disengagement with support services
  • professionals visiting may be aware of new unidentified persons in the property
  • the property may become to appear almost sparse of valuable possessions inside and go into a state of disrepair


If you think you have spotted a drugs 'cuckoo' or if you're concerned about a drug related crime where you live, call Derbyshire police on 101. Only call 999 in an emergency.

If you don’t want to speak to the police directly, you can call the anonymous Crimestoppers charity on tel: 0800 555 111.


Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, landlords or property managers can receive up to 14 years imprisonment or a substantial fine for having drugs residing at their property.

The property may be seized or forfeited as well as prosecuted for money laundering.

The premises may be ‘closed down’ and boarded up under the terms of a Premises Closure Order: (Section 76 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014).