Cuckooing: Home Takeovers of Vulnerable Tenants

Home takeovers by drug gangs are a type of crime whereby a vulnerable individual is befriended by a drug dealer who then takes over the individual's home in order to conduct illegal drug activity. Home takeovers are also termed “cuckooing” in reference to the cuckoo bird that invades another bird's nest. The drug dealer rarely takes possession of a home by force but instead feeds on the vulnerabilities of the victim by supplying them with drugs in exchange for use of the home. The drug dealer will then bring in other gang members to help with the drug business. Gang members will exert and maintain control over the victim through violence.

While it is known that these situations occur in Canada, literature on the subject is limited. Most research on cuckooing has been done by homelessness groups from the United Kingdom and is quite useful in shedding light on this subject. In Ottawa, it is the experience of the police that drug gangs usually target crack cocaine addicts or recovering addicts (usually their own clients) but other groups that are vulnerable to cuckooing include those with mental health problems, the developmentally disabled, isolated elderly people, young people, and ex-homeless individuals. These groups are particularly vulnerable due to the lack of support systems and feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Publication Date: 
Ottawa, Canada