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CUCKOOINGCuckooing is a crime where drug dealers or gangs take over a home to store, sell and/ or make drugs. The tenant or owner is often vulnerable and/ or living alone; this includes people who use drugs, older people, people with learning difficulties, physical or mental health issues, and people living in poverty. 

Drug dealers target their victims carefully- sometimes over many weeks, even months - offering ‘friendship’ and ‘free’ drugs as incentives to gain trust. Once in control, the dealers or gangs move in and take over the property and lives of the victim, often with threats and coercion, sexual exploitation,  and violence. Victims are frightened of going to the police, fearful of being involved with drugs, and/ or being identified as a dealer.

While cuckooing has been well-recorded within the general population for over a decade, it would appear to be a relatively new phenomenon in relation to gay men and chemsex. However, we are all human, and it's not a stretch to see how some gay men may find the offer of 'friendship', 'free' drugs, and sex hard to resist. Unfortunately, the combination of gay men, hook-up apps, and the privacy of home sex parties can afford is fertile ground for drug dealers seeking and exploiting victims.

Knowing when and how to include new issues can be challenging without sounding alarmist or gratuitous. Reliable data relating to gay men, chemsex and cuckooing is conspicuous by its absence, so we are cautious about adding this content.


Sifting through questions asked by London Assembly Members, there have been 328 offences flagged with Cuckooing Activity by the Met police recorded between 01/01/2019 and 28/02/2022 (broken down by London Borough). We understand these to be cuckooing offences within the general population only; ie: data does not include the sexuality of victims and/ or if the offences are chemsex related.

Over recent years, London Assembly Members have been asking The Mayor about cuckooing. Two recent examples: *

  • Question: Cuckooing offences by borough. Please advise a breakdown by borough of the offences marked with a cuckooing flag on the Metropolitan Police database.
    Answer: A Count of 328 Offences flagged with Cuckooing Activity by the MPS recorded between 01/01/2019 and 28/02/2022. See the attached PDF converted from an MPS Excel file.
  • Question: How many cuckooing cases did the MPS flag in 2021?
    Answer: As of March 2022, 129 offences recorded in 2021 calendar year have been flagged as Cuckooing Activity. Please note that the ‘Cuckooing’ flag was first introduced on the crime recording system in April 2019. Furthermore, the MPS Crime Recording System is a live recording system and flags can be added or removed at any time during current or past investigation.

London Boroughs

Not scientific, but MEN R US volunteers visited all local authority websites in mid-January 2023. 15 referenced cuckooing in documents or in news . 17 had no mention.

News media

MEN R US volunteers searched for news articles with the words 'cuckooing' and 'chemsex' (2021 and 2022) and could find nothing of any substance. More recently, there has been a single article on 12/01/23 in the Independent or "I" News (paywall) picked up by other outlets.

Other references

Within the context of chemsex, cuckooing has started to appear in documents such as:

Cuckooing | Wikipedia

The common cuckoo and cuckooing
The only British bird not to rear its young is the common cuckoo. Instead, females find nests built by other birds, lay eggs, and then fly away. The nest owner (eg: willow warblers, robins or meadow pipits) incubates the egg as its own and feeds the chick when it hatches. The cuckoo chick wants all the food for itself, so pushes the other eggs out of the nest, sending them to their deaths. The chick braces its feet on the sides of the nest and rolls each egg over the edge.

Common Cuckoo chick ejects eggs of Reed Warbler out of the nest | Artur Homan | 4 Jun 2013 | 3m 57s

With reference to criminal activity, the term cuckooing is believed to have been first coined in 1992 by Michael E. Buerger. Defensive Strategies of the Street-Level Drug Trade; Journal of Crime and Justice Vol. XV, No. 2 1992. Its use fell by the wayside but regained wider use from around  2010 when cuckooing was becoming an increasingly common problem in the Southern Counties.

Cuckooing crimes on rise across London | BBC | 18 May 2023
Jess Phillips and Iain Duncan Smith lead calls to criminalise ‘cuckooing’ | The Guardian | 26 Feb 2023

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