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The variable and evolving nature of ‘cuckooing’ as a form of criminal exploitation in street level drug markets

Spicer, Jack; Moyle, Leah; Coomber, Ross


Leah Moyle

Ross Coomber


A form of criminal exploitation rarely mentioned in the academic literature has recently emerged, evolved and taken meaningful hold in the UK. Hundreds of cases of ‘cuckooing’ have been reported, where heroin and crack cocaine dealers associated with the so-called ‘County Lines’ supply methodology have taken over the homes of local residents and created outposts to facilitate their supply operations in satellite locations. Dominant narratives surrounding this practice have stressed its exploitative nature and the vulnerabilities of those involved. Combining qualitative data from two studies, this paper critically analyses the model of cuckooing and the experiences of those affected. In turn it explores the impact of County Lines on affected areas and local populations, a topic that has received little academic scrutiny. Four typologies of cuckooing are constructed, highlighting its variance and complexity. Findings also suggest it to be a growing method of criminal exploitation beyond drug supply with a possible burgeoning presence being realised internationally.

Journal Article Type Article
Journal Trends in Organized Crime
Print ISSN 1084-4791
Electronic ISSN 1936-4830
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
APA6 Citation Spicer, J., Moyle, L., & Coomber, R. (in press). The variable and evolving nature of ‘cuckooing’ as a form of criminal exploitation in street level drug markets. Trends in Organized Crime,
Keywords cuckooing, drug supply, drug markets, exploitation, violence
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : The final publication is available at Springer via It is hosted here under terms of the CC-BY license.


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