County line drug supply and exploitation of vulnerable persons

A trendspotter study of county line drug supply and exploitation of vulnerable persons in Denmark


This research project has three overall aims:

One is to map current trends in the flow of illegal drugs between Danish urban centers and provincial areas, and to investigate to what extent the former function as supply hubs for countryside dealers.
Secondly to map current trends about how and the extent to which organized drug criminals take advantage of vulnerable youth and adults to transport, store or sell illegal drugs.
The third aim is to compare the current trends in Denmark with the development in other EU member states, especially the UK.


Recently, researchers have brought attention to an important development in the British retail drug supply landscape, analysing a fast evolving and expanding ‘county line supply model’, involving use of ‘phone lines’ and ‘outreach’ drug selling from urban supply hubs to drug users in provincial areas. Arguably the most problematic feature of this supply model is its reliance on exploitative labor undertaken by vulnerable youth and adults being recruited as ‘drug runners’, ‘commuters’ and for ‘cuckooing’, a practice where urban dealers create selling outposts in provincial areas by ‘taking over’ the accommodation of vulnerable people. Against this background, the purpose of this study is to explore to what extent the situation in Denmark is similar to and different from the developments in the UK. More broadly the project is to contribute with knowledge about how illegal drugs flow between city and country areas in Denmark, and how organized criminals (both in city and country areas) take advantage of vulnerable youth and adults.

The study

To collect data we will use the ‘trendspotter method’ developed by the EMCDDA, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2018). More specifically data collection will be composed of the following:

  • A smaller questionnaire-based survey aimed at mapping how practitioners (such as street level workers, drop-in center staff, housing services and police) experience the situation in Denmark.
  • A one-day seminar where practitioners, police and researchers can exchange experiences and knowledge about the above mentioned themes
  • To a smaller extent, the study will also include interviews with drug sellers and vulnerable young and adults.

The study will take place from November 2019 to July 2020


European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), Lisbon.