Cuckooing is the term used to describe the actions of people who take over the homes of vulnerable people in order to use and deal drugs. The people taking over homes can be local, or urban gangs who travel to suburban areas to establish a base for dealing drugs. As a result of these activities, those being “cuckooed” can suffer from abuse and exploitation.
Like other forms of exploitation, cuckooing:
- can affect any vulnerable adult over the age of 18 years - vulnerable can include those who are isolated, have a physical disability, learning difficulties, drug or alcohol misuser, those living in poverty or have mental health needs
- can still be exploited even if the activity appears consensual
- can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and is often accompanied by violence or threats of violence
- can be done by individuals or groups, males and females, and young people or adults
- involves some form of power imbalance in favour of those doing the exploiting
- can affect any child or young person, (male or female) under the age of 18 years being used as a drug runner.
County Lines is the term used for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas. It involves child criminal exploitation as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money. Gangs establish a base in the market location, typically by taking over the homes of local vulnerable adults by force or coercion.
County lines is a major, cross-cutting issue involving:
- safeguarding issues
- criminal and sexual exploitation
- modern slavery
- missing persons
One of the key factors found in most cases of county lines exploitation is the presence of some form of exchange in an unequal power dynamic. A victim will offered, promised or given something they need or want, in exchange for carrying drugs. The exchange can include both:
- tangible rewards (such as money, drugs or clothes)
- intangible rewards (such as status, protection or perceived friendship or affection).
In some cases young people choose to involve themselves in county lines to prevent something negative, for example to stop someone carrying out a threat to harm his/her family.
We can support young people and adults to access support services if they want to get away from this exploitation: