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.

Mark, who was a victim of cuckooing, shares his story

Watch 'Cuckooing in Oxford | Mark's story' on YouTube (5 minutes, 43 seconds)

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.

How we tackle cuckooing

Oxford properties have been targeted by drug dealers operating County Drugs Lines from larger cities such as London, Birmingham or Coventry.

We work with Thames Valley Police, Oxfordshire County Council and other support services to protect vulnerable people from cuckooing in Oxford.

All cases follow reports from neighbours or professionals who raise a concern about a vulnerable person. Following a report, Thames Valley Police and Oxford City Council carry out regular visits to cuckooed properties.

We have a number of tools and powers to remove the people who are exploiting and keep the tenant safe. In the more extreme cases, the City Council and Thames Valley Police will work together to obtain closure orders or injunctions on the cuckooed properties.

Closure orders restrict who can enter the property. Breaking a closure order is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment, meaning police can immediately arrest unwanted people found in a home with a closure order on it.

Monica Walton, Oxford City Council officer, discussing her work

Watch 'Monica Walton discusses her work to tackle cuckooing in Oxford' on YouTube (2 minutes, 23 seconds)

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

Report cuckooing

We have produced 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.

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 your neighbour or take photographs.

Tell the Local Authority and the Police

Report it online (it will only take a few minutes) and it will go to the Anti-Social Behaviour Investigation Team (ASBIT) and the police.

Report cuckooing online

You can also call 101 or email saferoxford@oxford.gov.uk. In an emergency please dial 999.

We will keep your identity confidential where possible. Thank you for sharing the information it will assist in protecting vulnerable people.

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