Do you know what cuckooing is? 

Hertfordshire’s Safeguarding Adult Board is launching a campaign to help raise awareness of ‘cuckooing’.

Cuckooing is where criminals take over the homes of vulnerable people to use as a base for their activities.

Reporting of offences is relatively low in Hertfordshire compared to other parts of the UK. However, it is likely that this type of crime is being under reported, either because people do not recognise it is happening or they are too frightened of the potential consequences.  

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Hertfordshire’s Safeguarding Adults Board is launching a cuckooing awareness campaignHertfordshire’s Safeguarding Adults Board is launching a cuckooing awareness campaign (Image: Hertfordshire Constabulary)

During 2024, 99 cuckooing offences were reported across the county, with Stevenage (28), Welwyn Hatfield (19) and Dacorum (14) having the highest number of incidents.

Cuckooing often forms part of a wider County Lines activity and is a form of criminal exploitation. The person being cuckooed will likely be reluctant to raise concerns for fear of repercussions or violence.

Liz Hanlon, independent chair of the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Adults Board, said: “Cuckooing is a hidden crime, which often goes undetected by police and other agencies.

"Victims are often unwilling or unable to seek help due to being vulnerable or under the control of violent offenders. Often this can have serious long-term consequences for victims, who are mainly young, elderly, disabled or have drug or financial problems.

"Those living close to a cuckooed address will also suffer from criminal activities and anti-social behaviour in their communities."

As part of the campaign, a public survey was conducted to gauge current levels of understanding of cuckooing.

The survey was completed by over 1,000 residents and has helped to get a better idea of some of the issues and barriers to reporting.

Liz Hanlon added: “It is likely that cuckooing in Hertfordshire is under reported and can be difficult for police and other agencies to detect, however it could be quite obvious to those living close to a cuckooed property, if they knew what signs to look out for.

"Once you learn the signs, it can be quite obvious that an address in your area may be being cuckooed. If you have spotted any of these signs, help to make your neighbourhood safer by reporting it.”  

For more information on cuckooing visit

If you suspect cuckooing is taking place call 101 to report, in an emergency always call 999. You can also report online at

Alternatively, you can stay 100 per cent anonymous by contacting the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their untraceable online form.

How to spot the signs of cuckooing

  • An increase in the number of visitors to the property through the day and night, often visiting for only short periods of time.
  • An increased number of vehicles outside the property including taxis or hire cars.
  • The usual occupier of the property having new associates staying and bags of clothing and / or extra bedding in the property.
  • The occupier moving out or staying away from the property whilst an unknown person remains.
  • Evidence of drug use such as discarded syringes, foil and cling film in and around the property and evidence of drug dealing such as scales and deal bags.
  • An increase in local crime and anti-social behaviour, including the accumulation and storage of stolen pedal cycles.
  • Victims of cuckooing may disengage from support services and be unwilling to discuss what is happening at their property when the subject is raised with them.


Types of Cuckooing

There are different types of cuckooing, examples include:

  • Using a property to deal, store or take drugs.
  • Using a property to deal or store weapons.
  • Using a property for sex work.
  • Taking over a property as a place for others to occupy.
  • Taking over a property to financially abuse the resident.