Data sheet

Drug trafficking — county lines


This FinCrime threat intelligence report aims to help financial institutions (FIs) better understand the transactional profiles that could indicate a customer is involved in drug trafficking. By understanding the behaviours of the drug runners, the industry can better detect and disrupt this type of criminal activity and pass actionable insights onto law enforcement. This report focuses on criminal activities related to county lines and specifically how to identify signs of young or vulnerable people who have been recruited into the activity to act as runners for drug gangs, through an example of coerced criminality.

County lines is a massive problem with an estimated 27,000 children involved1 in the UK and requires a response on all fronts to tackle this issue at scale. Whilst the term has become almost synonymous with all street-level drug dealing, it is important all aspects which make it a unique problem are clear and highlight why it is so important to treat it in a separate way to drug dealing in general. The county lines model is specifically designed to take advantage of the young and vulnerable, and distance the real criminals from threat of prosecution. This means that the people who run these lines can be charged with offences under modern slavery and human trafficking laws, as well as those related to drug offences.

This lite report will describe the behaviour of a typical runner and the key transactional identifiers for banks to look for to aid more accurate detection and flagging to law enforcement. The full report, which is available upon request, provides granular detail into behavioural patterns that can be expected of drug runners caught up in county lines activity. This includes the transactional profile before they start working in drug trafficking, the process of recruitment and the movements across the transport network which are indicative of this activity. At every stage the report shows where interaction with the banking system is likely to occur, which can be used by banks to examine the rules they should put in place to detect this activity. Finally the report examines a number of case studies which bring to life the impact of such criminal activities and the positive role banks can play in stopping it.