Inside squalid county lines 'trap houses'

Inside the squalid county lines ‘trap houses’ strewn with weapons and Class A drugs where children as young as SEVEN can be made to stay while being exploited by criminal gangs

  • BBC cameras went inside a ‘trap house’ used by county lines gangs to sell drugs
  • It was littered with drugs paraphernalia and a large kitchen knife was found
  • Man described how they can be covered in faeces and are ‘disgusting’ 
  • Children as young as seven are exploited by gangs and made to transport drugs 

Police have given a look inside the squalid ‘trap houses’ strewn with weapons and Class A drugs where children as young as seven can be forced to stay while being exploited by county lines drug gangs.

A BBC News crew followed officers from Northamptonshire Police as they carried out a raid on one such property and and found a 17-year-old boy who had been reported missing from London. 

The cramped flat was littered with drug paraphernalia and a large knife was found on a bedside table in one of the filthy bedrooms. County lines gangs use trap houses as a base for selling drugs.   

A charity worker named Rhys who was brought into a county lines drug gang at just eight years old and made to transport drugs up to ‘200 miles’ across the country painted a bleak picture of what it is like inside. 

‘Trap houses are literally the most disgusting place you can think of,’ he said. ‘There are needles everywhere, there are drug wrappers everywhere. 

Police have given a look inside the squalid ‘trap houses’ strewn with weapons and Class A drugs where children as young as seven can be forced to stay while being exploited by county lines drug gangs. Pictured, a knife found in the bedroom of a Northamptonshire property

A BBC News crew followed officers from Northamptonshire Police as they carried out a raid on one such property and and found a 17-year-old boy who had been reported missing from London. The flat was littered with drugs paraphernalia (pictured) 

‘Drug addicts will be that out of their face that they want to go to the toilet and they literally poo in tinfoil and throw it out of the window.’  

County line gangs, so-called because of the dedicated phone lines they use to advertise and sell drugs to customers in more rural areas, are notorious for forcing children into transporting drugs sometimes hundreds of miles across the country. 

They are also known for forcing vulnerable people to let them use their homes to conceal or deal drugs, as portrayed in BBC drama Line Of Duty.

Last week 904 of these ‘cuckooed’ homes were visited by law enforcement, and 1,138 vulnerable people were safeguarded as part of a co-ordinated effort by police forces across England, Wales and Scotland to crack down on county lines gangs. 

At the same time more than 570 under-18s were safeguarded.   

Young children are targeted because they are less likely to be stopped by police and face more lenient penalties if they are caught. 

‘These children are victims,’ a woman working for child exploitation charity Escapeline explained to the BBC. ‘This is modern day slavery. These children are being used as slaves.’ 

Cameras followed as a Northamptonshire Police crew  carried out a raid on a trap house 

Officers explained it is the sort of place where children and young people can ‘end up’ while being exploited by a county lines drug gang. Pictured, officers entering the property

A teenage boy, whose identity has been protected, was found with 30 wraps of class A drugs

Charities like Escapeline have seen the issue escalate due to lockdown when children were being home-schooled. 

During the co-ordinated week of action more than 1,000 people were arrested and 292 weapons seized.    

Forces across the UK boosted activity in the week from May 17 with 1,100 arrests, 33 guns and 219 knives among weapons seized, and 80 drug dealing phone lines identified.

There are currently thought to be around 600 county lines gangs operating in the UK, down from around 2,000 two years ago.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for county lines Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham McNulty said: ‘The police response to county lines has increased substantially over the past 18 months. We have been relentless in pursuing those behind the line whilst doing everything possible to rescue those being exploited.

A bedroom in the Northamptonshire flat, with what appears to be punch marks in the door

A worker from child exploitation charity Escapeline. Charities like Escapeline have seen the issue escalate due to lockdown when children were being home-schooled

‘Intensification weeks like this allow us to dedicate a burst of activity and resources nationally, highlighting to the public our absolute determination to rid communities of this abhorrent crime.

‘We will use all the powers available to us to tackle every element of the county line network because we know the effect violence and crimes associated with county lines can have in our communities.

‘It is vital that everyone looks out for the signs of exploitation.

‘This may be a child with unexplained cash, a new expensive phone or clothing, suddenly going missing, in possession of rail tickets or taxi receipts, a change in behaviour and new people suddenly appearing at a house or flat.’

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