What is Cuckooing?
“Cuckooing” is the name given to the practice of forcedly occupying the home of someone with the intention to conduct illicit activities such as human trafficking, drug dealing, or sex work.
When a homeowner or tenant is a victim of Cuckooing, they are most commonly a vulnerable person who is less able to resist, such as elderly people, people with disabilities, people with mental health illnesses, those socially isolated, those financially vulnerable, sex workers, those addicted to substances and undocumented migrants.
Cuckooing is deemed as a form of exploitation as it functions by means of control. This control can be financial, physical or psychological.
Spot the Signs of Cuckooing
- Significant number of people entering and leaving the property throughout the day
- Increase of bikes or cars parked outside the property
- Cars arriving at the property for short periods of time
- Anti-social behaviour, including increased noise and littering
- Damage to the property (either internally or externally)
- The homeowner/tenant seems anxious, isolated or on edge, or shows signs of a decrease in emotional wellbeing
- Indication of physical assault – bruises, scars, cuts, etc.
The practice of Cuckooing is commonly part of the formation of a County Lines network.
Who is targeted for Cuckooing?*
- Elderly people
- People with disabilities (either physical or learning)
- People with mental health illnesses
- People who are socially isolated
- People who are financially vulnerable
- People who are addicted to substances
- Sex workers
- Undocumented migrants.
* Whilst these groups are more vulnerable to Cuckooing, it can happen to anyone. Anyone has the potential to be a victim of Cuckooing.
How does Cuckooing start?
- Cuckooing often happens in stages. In the initial stage, the victim is befriended, charmed or manipulated into allowing the perpetrator into their home. Once the perpetrator has gained access to the property, they start to exert control though force, coercion, deception or other forms of manipulation.
- A common tactic is through exchange where the perpetrator may offer drugs or money to gain access to the property, but this offering becomes a form of debt bondage, with the victim forced to repay.
- Another Cuckooing tactic is the “boyfriend method” (sometimes known as the “romeo method” or “loverboy method”) where the perpetrator offers friendship or a relationship with the victim, then becomes more forceful physically or emotionally.
- The perpetrator then keeps control over the victim through financial, physical or psychological force.
Why is it called Cuckooking?
This practice became known as Cuckooing because the way in which the gangs take over other people’s homes has been compared to the way cuckoos take over other birds’ nests to lay their eggs, which is a form of parasitic behaviour.
What are the risks of Cuckooing?
People who are victims of Cuckooing can be at risk of modern slavery, developing mental illness, decreased wellbeing, risk of involvement in criminal activities and risk of losing tenancy or ownership of their property. It is very important to report any suspicions of Cuckooing in your community.
How to report Cuckooing
In the UK, Cuckooing can be reported to the police or local council. If you don’t want to speak to the police directly, you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the Modern Slavery Helpline (24/7) on 08000 121 700.