Cuckooing is a type of exploitation by criminal gangs. It involves befriending a person, then taking over their home and using it to deal drugs. The name comes from the cuckoo bird, which is known for laying its eggs in other birds’ nests.


This type of activity is closely linked to ‘county lines’ drug trafficking, where people are used to supply drugs from major cities to suburban, rural and coastal areas. In this case, the victim’s home becomes a base for developing operations in a new area.


Gangs will often deliberately target adults with care and support needs who live alone, because they are seen to be easier to manipulate.

People targeted are often unable to protect themselves from being exploited as they may be:

  • People who use substances or people with a history of substance use
  • People with physical and or mental health issues, or cognitive impairment
  • People who are socially isolated, for example by living alone or through age.
  • Victims of Domestic abuse

Criminals use a range of clever tactics to manipulate and exploit others, such as:

  • Offering drugs in exchange for use of the persons home
  • Offering friendship 
  • Using force or threats of violence

Spot The Signs Of Cuckooing

Sometimes the person being exploited has no idea that they are being used or is simply too afraid to speak up, which can make it difficult to spot what’s going on.

If you are concerned that someone you know is a victim of cuckooing, look out for the following warning signs:

  • The person can become unusually withdrawn or other changes in behaviour
  • They may start to struggle managing their finances
  • Can take place in any type of accommodation
  • Increased number of people entering and leaving at all times of the day and night
  • Increased number of cars or bikes outside the property
  • Possible increase in anti-social behaviour in and around the property
  • Increased litter outside
  • Disengagement with support services or healthcare services
  • Signs of drug use or possible relapse

Our Specialist Outreach Team Can Work With You To Provide:

  • Experienced assertive outreach workers who support people in the most suitable
  • Rapid response to support clients at immediate risk
  • Brief but intense intervention to re-engage people with services
  • Help people build resilience to prevent future exploitation
  • Help prevent risk of property closures
  • Regular communication with referrers

To Contact Our Team For More Information:

  • Catalyst, 14 Jenner Road, Guildford GU1 3PL
  • Karen 07584 689 517 or Nick 07776 137 237
  • 01483 590 150

Other Useful Contacts And Services

  • In an emergency always call 999
  • Call 101 to report cuckooing concerns
  • Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 if you want to remain anonymous
  • I-access (drug and alcohol service) – 0300 222 5932 –
  • NHS Mental health Crisis Line – 0800 915 4644
  • Samaritans – 116 123