Being the eyes and ears to spot drug dealing

News – 17 June 2021

You may have seen in the news last month that a drug trafficking network (sometimes called a ‘county lines network’) run by a Bedford man had been broken up due to the efforts of Bedfordshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit.

We’re working in partnership with the police and local authorities’ safer community teams to help identify – and put a stop to – criminal activities happening in our neighbourhoods and support the victims of these crimes.

Gangs from one area, often larger cities, take a phone line into another area and set up a drug dealing operation. The link from the city to their new base is known as the ‘county drug line’.

Often these drug dealers take advantage of more vulnerable people, taking over their homes and using them as a base for their criminal activities and exploitation; this is called ‘cuckooing’.

The victims, who might be isolated and/or vulnerable, including drug users themselves, might be robbed, threatened, bullied or assaulted. Even children can be recruited into these criminal networks, so the police need your help to identity those involved.

How to spot children or young people who might be involved in county lines:

  • unexplained large amounts of cash or luxury items (expensive clothes, trainers, jewellery and/or modern technology and gadgets)
  • more than one phone (usually older/cheaper handsets)
  • persistently going missing from home
  • being secretive about who they are talking to
  • excessive number of incoming texts and/or phone calls
  • increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
  • self-harm and/or unexplained injuries.

How to spot signs of cuckooing:

  • you’ve not seen your neighbour for a long time and when you do see them, they’re anxious or distracted
  • more and more people coming and going than before; some will have keys and claim to be your neighbour’s friend
  • increase in short term visitors
  • damage to the front door or it being propped open
  • an increase in antisocial behaviour
  • the resident won’t open the door of their property and if they do, you might see their home has become very messy
  • activity day and night
  • lots more litter outside than you would expect.

If you suspect that someone is being exploited, please call the police on 101 or visit your local police force’s website. Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via