Modern slavery: County lines drives record number of child referrals

A record number of children have fallen victim to criminal exploitation or modern slavery according to the latest Home Office figures.

Driven in part by a “rapid increase” in county lines drug-dealing, the latest data shows that 1,630 children have been referred as suspected victims of exploitation this quarter (April to June 2022).

This is a 20% increase on the previous quarter and includes 813 British and 817 foreign nationals.

The disturbing figures have sparked calls for professionals and authorities to step-up vigilance for signs that a child is being exploited.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a sharp rise in county lines activity and the latest figures show that of 589 referrals for criminal exploitation related to drug-running, 484 were children.

County lines describes drug gangs in large cities expanding their reach to small towns. Often the gangs exploit vulnerable individuals to transport substances and mobile phone “lines” are used to communicate drug orders.

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