'Cuckooing': When drug gangs take over your own home

Media caption,
"I had no choice" in gang taking over home

A man who said his home was taken over by drug dealers has described his experience as "terrifying".

The north Wales victim claimed he was "targeted" for 'cuckooing' last year.

It sees dealers using both physical and emotional threats to establish a base for selling drugs in someone's home.

The man said that police need to engage with those who could become targets. North Wales Police said it strived to protect the most vulnerable in its communities.

Cuckooing is often linked to the drug trade known as 'county lines', the name given to drug dealing networks connecting urban and rural areas across the UK through dedicated mobile phones.

The National Crime Agency said that an estimated 2,000 lines now operate in the UK.

In this case, the victim - who wished to remain anonymous - told BBC Wales that a gang of men came to his home one evening last year.

"I don't know why I opened my door, but I did, and they barged past me, straight into my living room," he said.

"[There was] a lot of 'we'll give you this, we'll give you that, just let us stay here', [but] I had no choice in the matter.

Media caption,
What is "county lines"?

"I had to go into my bedroom, and I was there for two days. The only place I was allowed to go was to the toilet. It was terrifying.

"They were in and out constantly - they weren't selling [drugs] from here, they were meeting people in other places - and they left the front door open. I just went quietly and left."

County lines is seen as a contributing factor in the 25% rise in knife crime across the country between 2017 and 2018, and the new North Wales Police chief constable said that the region is "suffering" from its impact.

High-profile incidents such as the murder of 19-year-old Matthew Cassidy in Flintshire has been linked to county line outfits, and a Wrexham gang was jailed in October 2018.

The man who recounted his cuckooing experience said that he felt he had been deliberately targeted as a former drug user.

"I am very, very vulnerable, and that's the sort of person they want," he said.

"[The police] need to work out who are the weak and vulnerable on drugs. [They could] figure out who is who and just go there and ask 'are you OK'."

Individuals were arrested in relation to the alleged incident, but ultimately no-one was charged.

Responding to the issue, a police spokesman said: "North Wales Police continue to investigate the serious offences known as cuckooing and we will strive to protect those most vulnerable within our communities."

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