New police operation safeguards vulnerable people being cuckooed

By Barrie Hudson - 11 June 2024


A new proactive operation aimed at safeguarding vulnerable people being cuckooed has been launched in Swindon.

Cuckooing is the term used when drug dealers target vulnerable people by establishing a relationship with them before then offering them free drugs, or money for bills or utilities, in exchange for using their home as a base for dealing.

Victims are often lonely and isolated, and potentially struggle with drug or alcohol addictions. They may also have learning difficulties or physical disabilities.

Using their home allows the criminals to operate from a property rather than on the street, out of sight from the police.

The new operation, named Operation Trespass, will target these criminals, utilising frequent proactive checks of closure orders and hot spot patrols. 

It will also seek to educate the public through thousands of leaflets which will go out to victims of cuckooing and their neighbours, as well as to community partners of the police, warning of the signs of cuckooing and how to report it.

Swindon Neighbourhoods Chief Inspector Carly Nesbitt said: “A vital role of our neighbourhood teams across Swindon is looking out for and providing support for some of the most vulnerable members in our society.

“That’s why we have launched Operation Trespass, which aims to crack down on criminals who exploit vulnerable people by cuckooing them, while educating residents about the signs of cuckooing.

“We know that cuckooing is a common tactic as part of the county lines business model for the dealers to avoid police detection.

“Dealers will often have access to several cuckooed addresses at once, allowing them to move quickly between them. They will often use threats to control the victim.

“It has a devastating impact on victims, potentially escalating their addiction and causing declines in their mental and physical health.

“Communities also suffer due to the linked anti-social behaviour, increased rubbish, vandalism and general sense of insecurity.

“We would like to ask you, the public, to please look out for your neighbours.

“You may receive a leaflet informing you that a resident near you is vulnerable and potentially being cuckooed. We would ask you to please look out for anything strange or suspicious, and if you do then to please report it.”

People who suspect a property is being cuckooed are asked to report it on 101, or on 999 in an emergency. They are asked to mention Operation Trespass and cuckooing when they call.

People unwilling to speak to the police directly can call the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555111.

The police say signs of cuckooing are:

- People entering the property who would not normally be associated with the tenant
- Increase in the number of general comings and goings/unidentified people at the property at frequent/unusual times
- New vehicles, hire cars or bikes outside the property
- Damage to the door/the door propped open
- Significant changes in physical health or emotional well-being of the tenant
- Increase in rubbish, bins overflowing or increased quantities of takeaway food containers
- Abandoned and broken bikes left outside property/in communal areas


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