Advice on the support offered to victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales.

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

Perpetrators of cuckooing target the most vulnerable in society, establishing 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.

A variety of tactics will be used to control the victim. They may befriend the victim, making them believe they are in a relationship or provide them with drugs or alcohol. If the victim asks the criminals to leave, then manipulation, threats or actual violence may be used.

Often the victim is too terrified of the perpetrator to report this or is worried about what the repercussions for them might be.

There are different types of cuckooing:

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

Signs of cuckooing

Signs of cuckooing at a property include:-

  • People coming and going from the property throughout the day and night
  • High number of cars and bicycles outside the property
  • Increase in anti-social behaviour at the property
  • Drug dealing near to the property
  • Not seeing the resident of the property as often
  • Damage to the property and communal areas
  • Unknown people trying to gain access to the building
  • Communal door being left propped open or continuously damaged

Signs that a person could be affected by cuckooing could include:

  • Appearing withdrawn and fearful
  • Not engaging with services
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Misusing substances
  • New associates that frequently attend the property

What are we doing to prevent cuckooing?

Hammersmith & Fulham have launched the Cuckooing Risk Panel to safeguard victims of cuckooing. Professionals can make a referral to the panel where they have concerns that a vulnerable individual is being cuckooed. The multi-agency panel will discuss options for increasing the safety for victims and addressing the perpetrators’ behaviour and turn these into coordinated action plans.

Victims and perpetrator will continue to be monitored by the group to ensure the same pattern, involving the same individuals are not seen repeatedly at multiple addresses across the borough.

Professionals can refer individuals to the Cuckooing Risk Panel by completing the referral form below. Completed forms can be sent to

Cuckooing Safeguarding Group (CSG) referral form (docx)

If you would like to discuss your concerns about cuckooing, please email

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