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Are you concerned about a neighbour after seeing a group of people staying or regularly appearing at their home? Has there been an increase in noise, disturbances and unusual activity at their address as a result of these people? If so, it could be that they are being cuckooed.

Cuckooing is where people take over a person’s home and use the property for illegal activity - dealing and/or storing drugs, sex working - as well as somewhere for a group to live or financially exploit the tenant. It takes the name from cuckoos who take over the nests of other birds.

Common signs of cuckooing

Here are some of the common signs that someone’s property is being cuckooed:

  • An increase in people entering and leaving
  • An increase in cars or bikes outside
  • An increase in anti-social behaviour and noise
  • Change in appearance/unwashed/unkempt
  • Increasing litter outside
  • People coming and going at strange times
  • Damage to the door/the door propped open
  • Unknown people pressing buzzers or banging doors to gain access to the building
  • You haven't seen the person who lives there recently or when you have, they have been anxious or distracted.

The most common form of cuckooing is where drug dealers take over a person's home and use it to store or distribute drugs.

Who is most vulnerable to cuckooing

Exploiters will often target the most vulnerable in society, such as those who:

  • have connections with people involved with drug gangs
  • experience mental health difficulties
  • experience substance misuse issues
  • feel socially isolated
  • have a learning disability
  • have a physical disability or illness - older people who use drugs and have an illness or health condition are particularly vulnerable to cuckooing by county lines gangs
  • are a care leaver - it may be their first tenancy and experience of independent living

Exploiters establish a relationship with the vulnerable person to access their home. Once they gain control over the victim - whether through drug dependency, debt or as part of their relationship - larger groups will sometimes move in. Threats are often used to control the victim.

Report cuckooing

If you are concerned that your neighbour is being cuckooed, you can report in confidence to the Police online or by calling 101.

Please have as much detail to hand when making your report - make a note of your concerns, times, dates, what has happened and the identity or names of people coming in and out of the address.

You can also make an anonymous report to Crime Stoppers online or by calling 0800 555 111.

Whilst safeguarding is everyone's duty, please remember to keep yourself safe. Do not approach any of the people you believe may be cuckooing your neighbour or take photographs.

If you or someone is in danger and you need immediate support please call 999.