Spotting the signs of cuckooing, county lines and criminal exploitation

Coronavirus has changed how we all operate – including drug dealers and other organised crime gangs.

We know that drug dealing is moving off the streets and into people’s homes as a result of lockdown and the restrictions on movement.

This means that people in our communities face an increased risk from exploitation by these criminal networks, specifically from cuckooing.

Cuckooing is the practice of drugs gangs taking over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for their criminal network.

The address could then become a base for the production or dealing of drugs, as well as exploitation of the person living there.

Victims are befriended by the dealers as they may be vulnerable, isolated, and often drug users themselves.

The victims can be robbed, threatened, bullied or even assaulted, sometimes seriously. We need your help to identify people at risk of violence and exploitation by these gangs.

There are some other signs that may indicate potential cuckooing. There may be an increase in:

  • People entering the property
  • Cars or bikes outside the property
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Litter outside
  • People coming and going at strange times

There may also be:

  • Damage to the door, or the door being propped open
  • Unknown people pressing buttons to gain access to the building
  • You have not seen the resident recently, or when you have, they have been anxious or distracted
  • No engagement with family or services
  • The resident will not open the door of their property
  • Phone disconnected

We need your help to understand cuckooing and take action against those exploiting people.

Many victims may be unable or afraid to speak out, so we need their friends and neighbours to speak up on their behalf.

You can get in touch with local police force by calling 101.

Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111 or via