Cuckooing – advice for all

Cuckooing‘ is when professional criminals target the homes of vulnerable adults so they can use the property for drug-dealing and other criminal activities.

These criminals are very selective about who they target as ‘cuckoo’ victims and are often entrepreneurial.

Victims of ‘cuckooing’ are often drug users but can include older people, those suffering from mental or physical health problems, female sex workers, single mums and those living in poverty. Victims may suffer from other forms of addiction, such as alcoholism, and are often already known to the police. Dealers often approach the victim offering free drugs to use their home for dealing.

Once they gain control, gangs move in with the risk of domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and violence. Children as well as adults are used as drug runners.

It is common for gangs to have access to several addresses. They move quickly between vulnerable people’s homes for just a few hours, a couple of days or sometimes longer. This helps gangs evade detection. By ‘cuckooing’ the criminals can operate from a discreet property, which is out of sight, making it an attractive option. They can then use the premises to deal and manufacture drugs in an environment under the police radar.

These gangs may use accommodation in rural areas, including serviced apartments, holiday lets, budget hotels and caravan parks.

When the criminals use the victim’s property for criminal enterprises, the inhabitants become 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. Some vulnerable adults may be forced to leave their homes, making themselves homeless and leaving the gangs free to sell drugs in their absence.

Reporting any suspicious drug-related behaviour may assist in making your neighbourhood a safer place as professional criminals are using the homes of victims to manufacture and sell drugs.

Stay aware and spot potential signs of drug dealers near you.

Signs to look out for if you think you are living within or near a property used to deal drugs; or if you are concerned about your property as a landlord or property manager include:

If you think you have spotted a drugs ‘cuckoo’ 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 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.

Crimestoppers has launched a campaign to try to stop these gangs which use violence and abuse to target the homes of vulnerable people and use them as bases for drug dealing – find out more on their website at

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, landlords or property managers can receive up to 14 years imprisonment or a substantial fine for having drugs residing at their property.

The property may be seized or forfeited as well as prosecuted for money laundering.

The premises may be ‘closed down’ and boarded up under the terms of a Premises Closure Order: (Section 76 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014).

Find out more about how this is being tackled in Greater Manchester on the Programme Challenger website at and find more information in our criminal exploitation resource.


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