County Lines - Cuckooing


Cuckooing is a form of criminal exploitation that occurs within the context of County Lines drug operations. It involves drug dealers taking over the homes or premises of vulnerable individuals, often referred to as "cuckooing" their nests, to use as bases for their illicit activities. Here are some victim types and potential behaviors that can result from cuckooing:


Vulnerable Adults:

Vulnerable adults, such as those with physical or mental health issues, substance abuse problems, or social isolation, can be targeted for cuckooing. They may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Allowing drug dealers to use their homes or premises for drug-related activities in exchange for drugs, money, or a sense of belonging.
  • Feeling pressured or coerced into cooperating with the drug dealers due to their vulnerability and fear of reprisals.
  • Becoming dependent on drugs supplied by the dealers, leading to addiction and further exploitation.

Elderly Individuals:

The elderly, particularly those living alone or experiencing cognitive decline, can be susceptible to cuckooing. They may display the following behaviors:

  • Allowing strangers to enter their homes and engaging in drug-related activities without fully understanding the implications.
  • Feeling intimidated or threatened by the drug dealers, resulting in compliance out of fear or confusion.
  • Neglecting their own well-being or becoming isolated from family and friends due to the influence of the drug dealers.

Individuals with Learning Disabilities:

People with learning disabilities may be targeted for cuckooing due to their potential susceptibility and difficulties in understanding the risks involved. They may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Being easily manipulated or deceived by the drug dealers, who exploit their limited understanding of the situation.
  • Displaying signs of increased agitation, confusion, or changes in behavior due to the disruptive presence of drug-related activities in their homes.
  • Experiencing financial exploitation, where drug dealers take advantage of their limited understanding of money and resources.

Young People and Children:

Cuckooing can also affect young people and children, who are coerced into participating in drug-related activities. Their behaviors may include:

  • Being groomed by drug dealers who befriend them, offer gifts or attention, and gradually involve them in criminal activities.
  • Skipping school or exhibiting poor academic performance as a result of their involvement in the drug trade.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as carrying drugs or weapons, to fulfil their role within the County Lines operation.

It's important to note that victim behaviors can vary widely depending on individual circumstances and the specific dynamics of the County Lines operation. These examples aim to provide a general understanding of potential victim types and behaviors associated with cuckooing.


Daljeet Dagon from Barnardo’s Scotland explains county lines in more detail and advises on the warning signs to look out for and what to do if someone is concerned in the video link below 'What is Cuckooing'

What is County Lines/Cuckooing

What is Cuckooing

If you have concerns about someone potentially being a victim of cuckooing in connection with county lines, please contact the police at 101 or 999 in case of an emergency. Alternatively, you can call the Child Criminal Exploration (CCE) and provide information anonymously. You can also visit the website of Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) at  Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) | Crimestoppers (


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