7 February 2024

Signs to look out for on "cuckooing" in Newcastle


Signs to look out for on "cuckooing" in Newcastle

A new initiative has been launched to highlight the signs to look out for on a home takeover (which is sometimes referred to as home invasion or cuckooing).

Targeting home invaders

It is part of a joint effort across the Newcastle Safeguarding Adults Board, The Newcastle Safeguarding Children Partnership and the Safe Newcastle Board, as well as input from the University of Northumbria.

It comes after recently published research about exploitation during the Covid pandemic, undertaken by the University of Northumbria, identified a lack of awareness of what home takeover was and what it involved.

The campaign, featuring a new animation, aims to increase the understanding of the issue and how people can be supported.

There are different types of home takeover:

  • Using the property to deal, store or take drugs;
  • Using the property for sexual exploitation or sex work;
  • Taking over the property as a place for them to live;
  • Taking over the property to financially abuse the owner or tenant.

It is common for the perpetrators to have access to several addresses at once, and to move quickly between them to evade detection. By taking over someone else’s home, criminals can operate from a property rather than the street, which is out of sight from Police making it an attractive option.

Cllr Karen Kilgour, Cabinet Member for a Healthy, Caring City and Deputy Leader, Newcastle City Council, said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in this project for their support in raising awareness of this, often hidden, abuse of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

“We are committed to eradicating this type of behaviour and this latest project is a great example of how partnership working brings together a wide range of knowledge and experience to tackle key issues in an effective way.”

Cllr Paula Maines, Cabinet Member for a Resilient City, Newcastle City Council, said: “There is no excuse for abuse of any sort, and it is a key priority for us that everyone can live in safety and without fear.

“I am proud that we are continuing to work proactively with our partners to prevent this type of activity in our city and would encourage anyone with concerns to contact the relevant agency.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “We must do everything we can to protect and support vulnerable people in our communities – anyone who is being taken advantage of, exploited, or abused. This can look very different for different people but can leave a victim feeling threatened and scared in their home.

“Increasing awareness of how exploiters hook their victims in and take over their homes is so important. It helps people understand what is happening to them or those around them, and crucially, how to get help.”

Who is at risk of home takeover

Criminals are selective about who they target, a lot of the time victims are very vulnerable. Victims often have care and support needs, can be isolated and be drug users themselves. Once they gain control over the victim – whether through drug dependency, debt or as part of their relationship – larger groups will sometimes move in. Threats are often used to control the victim. Perpetrators groom and exert undue influence over their victims. Victims often experience and witness violence and threats.

Signs and indicators

  • frequent or high numbers of visitors at an address;
  • having money/mobile phones/burner phones without a plausible explanation;
  • squalid property conditions or damage to the property;
  • signs of drug misuse including deal bags and weighing scales;
  • becoming involved in criminality;
  • increased or change in use of drugs or alcohol;
  • unexplained injuries or other health concerns such as bruising, puncture/stab wounds;
  • carrying weapons;
  • developing inappropriate/unusual relationships/associations;
  • anti-social behaviour/neighbour complaints;
  • missing people, including children often found in properties which have been taken over.

Report a home takeover concern

If you have a concern this can be reported via a number of different organisations who will work with the relevant agencies to ensure the safety of those at risk.

Northumbria Police

  • 999 if a crime is happening now or someone is in immediate danger
  • Telephone 101 or make an online report for all other concerns

Crimestoppers (give information 100% anonymously)

  • Telephone 0800 555111 or online

Fearless (Crimestoppers reporting for 11-16-year-olds)

  • Telephone 0800 55511 or online

Via safeguarding children or adult procedures or make a multi-agency referral.

You can also report abuse or neglect to YHN via (0191) 2788600 or email safeguarding@yhn.org.uk

Safeguarding is everybody’s business!

We all have a role to play in working together to help keep people safe from harm.

There are many reasons why people will not, or feel they cannot, speak about their experiences or seek help and support so it is important to build trust to enable this to happen.

  • Always be alert to the possibility that an individual could be experiencing exploitation, regardless of their age or gender, and be prepared to offer support;
  • Ensure professional interpreters are used, never use family members, children or friends where exploitation is known or suspected;
  • Only ask questions about exploitation when victims are on their own and in a private place.

For more how to report any concerns and the services available to help, click here.

Find out more about home takeover and exploitation in Newcastle here.

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