You may have heard a lot about this in the news lately. Cuckooing is happening in North Wales. For those of you who have never heard of ‘cuckooing, it is a crime where a drug dealer befriends a vulnerable person then takes over their home and uses it as a drug dealing house. Just like a cuckoo, the dealer moves in, takes over the property and turns it into a drugs den.


Cuckooing is happening in North Wales

County lines is a term used to describe gangs, groups or drug networks that supply drugs from urban such as Manchester or Liverpool to suburban areas across the country, including market and coastal towns of North Wales, using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. They exploit children and vulnerable adults to move the drugs and money to and from the urban area, and to store the drugs in local markets. They will often use intimidation, violence and weapons, including knives, corrosives and firearms.

Often the young people/ vulnerable adults that are exploited to deliver drugs have similar circumstances/ backgrounds and can include:

  • Drug addicts/ drugs debts / drug experimentation (in younger children)
  • Alcoholics or under-age drinking
  • Mental health problems or learning difficulties
  • In a relationship or friendship with a gang member
  • Come from deprived backgrounds or broken families
  • Young people who often go missing form home
  • Young people who frequently skip school
  • Looked after children/ under social services

Who are the victims?

The victims can be anyone in your community – they can be as young as 10 or as old as 90 – criminal gangs exploit vulnerability in all its forms

  • Young people may become trapped through experimental drug use or mixing with the wrong crowd and the building up of a drug debt
  • Once in debt to a dealer they will be encouraged to sell drugs to pay the debt off
  • The gang will ensure the debt is never fully paid off and the victim can quickly become trapped in a cycle where their only option is to commit further crime
  • The more crime they commit the less likely they are to tell someone what is happening or seek help
  • They will be dispatched to travel to other parts of the country where they are not known to police or social services and can essentially fly under the radar
  • During this time away from home they are highly at risk of coming to further harm at the hands of people they are dealing to or rival local drug dealers
  • Older people may become exploited to also traffic drugs, weapons and cash but additionally their homes night get taken over by gangs needing somewhere to hide drugs or deal from
  • Adults with mental or physical disabilities, adults with addictions or adults who are particularly elderly may suffering ‘cuckooing’ where a gang take over their home
  • Other victims include the relatives of the exploited person who ‘lose’ their loved one to a criminal gang, and the communities where the drug dealing and associated violence is exported to

What are the signs?

In children, signs they are a victim of criminal exploitation can be:

• going missing from home or absent from school without explanation;

  • mixing with new friends their parents don’t know;
  • experimental drug use, often cannabis;
  • having more than one mobile phone;
  • appearing nervous/scared/evasive/secretive;
  • suffering injuries they can’t explain; having tickets for train or coach travel

In adults, signs of ‘cuckooing’ can include:

  • a loved one or neighbour not being seen for some time;
  • unknown visitors and vehicles to their house at unusual times;
  • exchanges of cash or packages outside their home;
  • open drug use in the street; damage and degradation to the appearance of their home;
  • a change in their own personality or behaviour e.g. used to say ‘hi’, now appears nervous/worried/intimidated

If you suspect it is occurring where they live they should pick up the phone and call North Wales Police on 101, or 999 if a crime is in action, or you can call the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

More information on the Crimestoppers County Lines campaign can be found here

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