Criminals running County Lines will take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for their criminal network. This practice is called ‘cuckooing’, named after the cuckoo’s practice of taking over other birds nests.
This address will then be used for making and selling drugs, as well as exploiting the person living there.
The victims can be robbed, threatened, bullied or even assaulted, sometimes seriously. Cuckooing is a form of criminal exploitation.
Victims are befriended by the dealers as they may be vulnerable, isolated, and often drug users themselves.
As well as drug users, victims 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.
Once they gain control, gangs move in further increasing the risk of domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and violence. Children as well as adults are used as drug runners.
It’s common for gangs to have access to several addresses. They move quickly between vulnerable people’s homes for just a few hours, a couple of days or sometimes longer. This helps gangs evade detection.
These gangs may also use accommodation in rural areas, including serviced apartments, holiday lets, budget hotels and caravan parks.
Some vulnerable adults may be forced to leave their homes, making themselves homeless and leaving the gangs free to sell drugs in their absence.