Cuckooing‘ is when criminals target the home of vulnerable person, often so they can use the property for criminal purposes such as drug-dealing, hiding weapons and other criminal activities.

The term comes from the behaviour of cuckoo birds who take over the nests of other birds.

A criminal will often befriend a vulnerable person in order to exploit them and use their property. The person is usually intimidated and too scared to report it to anyone.

Victims of ‘cuckooing’ are usually vulnerable in some way. They may be a drug user but can include:

  • Older people,
  • People living with mental or physical health problems,
  • Living with a learning disability or difficulty.
  • Sex workers,
  • Single parents
  • People experiencing poverty.
  • People who are isolated
  • People living with drug or alcohol addiction.

The criminals use the property to provide a discreet location, out of sight of the police from which to conduct their criminal activity.

They will use a range of tactics to control the victim. This could be befriending the victim, giving them ‘gifts’, drugs or alcohol. When the victim wants the criminals to leave, then manipulation, threats or actual violence will be used.

Often, the victim will be terrified of going to the police for fear of being suspected of involvement in drug dealing or being identified as a member of the group, which would result in their eviction from the property.

Signs of cuckooing at the property can include:

  • High numbers of cars / bikes stopping at the property for a short time
  • People coming and going from the property at various times of day and night.
  • Possible increase in noise / anti-social activity in and around the property
  • Increase in litter outside
  • Open drug dealing near the property
  • Not seeing the resident of the property as often
  • Damage to the property

Signs that a person could be affected by cuckooing could include:

  • Not engaging with services
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Paying off debts in full with cash
  • Misusing substances
  • Appears withdrawn and fearful
  • New unidentified associates at the property or when collecting money
  • Changed appearance – either wearing expensive clothing or appearing unkempt.

If you are concerned that someone may be a victim of cuckooing or if you’re concerned about a drug related crime where you live, call the police on 101 or call 999 in an emergency. If the adult you are concerned about has care and support needs you should also contact Adult Social Care.

If you don’t want to speak to the police directly, you can call the anonymous Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Crimestoppers is an independent charity that works with police forces throughout the UK that people can use to pass on information about a crime anonymously.

  • call 0800 555 111 (24 hours a day and 7 days a week)
  • anonymous online reporting form
  • you don’t have to give them your name or any personal information; calls are not recorded and cannot be traced.

Resources for Professionals from the Safer Peterborough Partnership

Click here to access the Multi-Agency Cuckooing Pathway for Supporting Victims of Exploitation and Communities from the Safer Peterborough Partnership