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Types of abuse


What is Cuckooing?

Cuckooing is a practice where people take over a person’s home and use the property to facilitate exploitation. It takes the name from cuckoos who take over the nests of other birds.

There are different types of cuckooing:

  • Using the property to deal, store or take drugs
  • Using the property to sex work
  • Taking over the property as a place for them to live
  • Taking over the property to financially abuse the tenant

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

People who choose to exploit will often target the most vulnerable in society. They 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. It is common for the drug dealers to have access to several cuckooed addresses at once, and to move quickly between them to evade detection. The victims of cuckooing are often people who misuse substances such as drugs or alcohol, but there are cases of victims with learning difficulties, mental health issues, physical disabilities or socially isolated.

What are the signs of Cuckooing?

Signs that cuckooing may be going on at a property include but are not limited to:

  • An increase in people entering and leaving
  • An increase in cars or bikes outside  
  • An increase in anti-social behaviour  
  • Increasing litter outside 
  • People coming and going at strange times
  • Damage to the door/the door propped open
  • Unknown people pressing buzzers 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
  • Curtains and blinds remain closed

It is important that should you notice any of the above, you do not challenge or approach the situation as you could unknowingly cause further harm to the victim.

Oxford City Council have developed a simple, informative and memorable guide to help people identify and assist victims of Cuckooing using the acronym NEST.

  • Notice the signs

Look out for your neighbours especially if there has been a change in behaviour.  Spot the signs listed above

  • Evidence your concerns

Make a note of your concerns, times, dates, what has happened and identity or names of people coming in and out.  If there is lots of noise, download the Noise App to record it safely.

  • Stay Safe

It is important you are safe, so do not approach any of the people you believe may be cuckooing a person you know or take photographs.

  • Tell the Police and Local Authority

If you’re concerned cuckooing crime in your area or think someone may be a victim of cuckooing, please call us on 101. If it's an emergency, please call 999. You can also report it online, or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via crimestoppers-uk.org. You can make a Safeguarding Referral to the Local Authority by calling 0345 140 0845.

You can find out more by reading our 7 minute briefing on Cuckooing

You can watch Lisa's Story of being cuckooed below:


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