Coffee4Craig regularly welcomes groups of corporate volunteers into the drop-in during the day. During their volunteering session, we give them a tour around the building, talking them through who we are, and what we do. During these talks, the issue of Cuckooing often comes up.
So, what is Cuckooing? And why is it a factor when it comes to being homeless?
Taking its name from the cuckoo bird who takes over the nests that other birds have built, Cuckooing is a method of exploitation where people take over a person’s home and use the property to carry out illegal activity.
The reason for the Cuckooing could be one, or more of many different factors. The offender may use the property to deal, store or take drugs or to carry out sex work.
In other cases, the offender may take over the property as a place for them to live or allow them to easily financially abuse the tenant.
Abusers gain control over their victims through drug dependency, debt or by forming a false romantic relationship. In some instances, once the connection is established larger groups will sometimes move in order to inflict more power and control over the victims.
People who have been cuckooed are often subjected to threats of physical or sexual violence, and sadly in most instances attacks of this nature are carried out on the victims in order to keep control. By its very nature, Cuckooing in all forms is emotionally manipulative, with the lasting effects on the victim's mental health lasting many, many years.
People who are exploited in this way are often the most vulnerable in society and are therefore more easily manipulated into entering into a false relationship, and are less likely to report their experiences to the police.
People most likely at risk are:
People with mental health issues
People who are addicted to alcohol or illegal substances
Domestic violence victims
It is common for criminals who use properties for criminal purposes such as drug dealing or storage to have several cuckooed properties at any one time. This allows them to quickly move between properties and avoid detection.
Signs of a property being cuckooed can be subtle, but here are something to look out for:
More people entering and leaving
More vehicles outside the property
Signs of anti-social behaviour
Unusual amounts of litter outside
People coming and going at strange times
Damage to the door/the door propped open
People trying to gain access to the main building who do not live within the block of properties
Decrease in the property owner being at the property, not seeing them at all, or that person being anxious or heightened.
It is often difficult for our guests to open up to us if they are being cuckooed, but through our ongoing engagement work, we have identified that around six of our current guys have currently been driven out of their homes due to Cuckooing.
We recently spoke with Chief Inspector Adam Wignall from Greater Manchester Police who gave us an insight into how GM tackles Cuckooing.
We spoke about Programme Challenger and how GMP supports victims of Cuckooing by “cocooning” the issue. When a property is subject to Cuckooing, the police will support the surrounding community and properties by giving them information on Cuckooing and how it can be prevented, increasing their presence in the area, and making sure the immediate community know what to do if they find themselves in the same in a similar situation; the same way they would with victims of burglary. There have been instances within Greater Manchester where 4-5 properties on the same street have been targeted by criminals.