Cuckooing is a form of crime in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing, storing firearms,and other criminal activity. The crime is named for the Cuckoo's practice of taking over other birds' nest for its young. 

In Greater Manchester we recognise that the criminal exploitation of children and vulnerable adults is not only in relation to drugs but can include other forms of criminal activity, such as arson, violent offences, storing firearms and holding money, amongst other forms of criminality. 

Cuckooing is a form of criminal exploitation. The 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 known to the police.  

Criminals use a range of methods to gain people's trust, often befriending someone and and providing them with drugs or alcohol to use their house or flat.   Sometimes, it can be difficult for people to see they are being exploited and they may believe they are just helping out a friend.  However, it can be difficult to stop criminals using their home, and violence and intimidation can be used against them if they try to get out.

It is common for gangs to have access to several addresses. They can move quickly between people's homes for just a few hours, a couple of days or sometimes longer. This helps the gangs evade detection. By cuckooing, the criminals can operate from a discreet property, which is out of sight and not associated with them, making it an attractive option. They can use the premises to deal and manufacture drugs, store weapons or stolen goods, in an environment under the police radar. 

Drug dealers/organised drug gangs and other criminals do not care about who they are exploiting.  Support is available if it is needed.  Help keep your community safe, because everyone has the right to feel safe in their own home.  

Please see our Trapped video

Spot the signs in your neighbourhood

  • usually takes place in a multi-occupancy or social housing property
  • an increase in number of comings and goings /people entering and leaving at all times of the day and night 
  • increase in cars or bikes outside - offenders will often have new vehicles outside the property, or frequently use taxis or hire cars
  • possible increase in anti-social behaviour in and around the property
  • increase in litter outside
  • disengagement with support services/healthcare services
  • the property may appear almost sparse of valuable possessions inside and go into a state of disrepair
  • signs of drug use and open drug dealing

What to do if you suspect cuckooing

  • If you think you have spotted a drugs cuckoo or if you are concerned about a drug related crime please call the police on 101 or in an emergency call 999
  • If you don't want to speak to the police directly, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111or use the online form
  • Contact Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or use their online form 
  • Manchester Safeguarding Board have a tool that you can use to report any concerns, you can also contact them on 0161 234 5001 24hrs a day
  • Salford Adult Safeguarding Board  have produced a seven minute briefing on cuckooing, with information on reporting and referrals

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