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Modern Slavery Intelligence Will Help Housing Associations Beat Cuckooing

An online conference will show how modern slavery intelligence and data sharing is helping housing associations in the fight against ‘cuckooing’ says Darren Burton from Forbes Solicitors.
Darren Burton Headshot

An online conference will show how modern slavery intelligence and data sharing is helping housing associations in the fight against ‘cuckooing’ says Darren Burton from Forbes Solicitors.

The last few weeks have seen a couple of widely reported court cases, which will, sadly, send a shiver down the spines of housing associations. An 18-year-old was convicted of murder in Salford, while a case at Warwick Crown Court heard how a vulnerable woman was forced out of her flat by drug dealers.

Cuckooing was prominent in both cases. The victim in Salford reportedly suffered from drug addiction issues and was killed by a drug dealer who had taken over his flat to use it for packaging and selling drugs. The other case saw a vulnerable lady left homeless for the same reasons – criminals using her flat to sell heroin and crack cocaine.

The issue of criminals exploiting vulnerable people and taking over their homes, much like a cuckoo moves into the nests of other birds, is becoming a more frequent problem. Cuckooing is being driven by organised criminal gangs expanding county lines drug networks and using homes as bases from which to operate. A residential property provides a convenient and unassuming location, with the chances of detection by the authorities further minimised through threats of violence and death.

Government, police forces and housing associations are well-aware of this growing issue and there’s increasing efforts to tackle it. They are working together to identify problems in communities, where unemployment and financial hardship are more apparent, and which criminals will ruthlessly target. The fight against modern slavery is the latest step in this concerted effort and will enable an even more proactive approach to stopping cuckooing with early interventions.

Slavery and ‘away-from-home’ signs of cuckooing

Intelligence gathering and sharing between housing associations and the police has been instrumental in the fight against cuckooing and county lines. Registered providers of housing have the presence and reach in communities to spot the early signs of a vulnerable person and their home being exploited. With the right collaboration and expertise, this can mean that action is taken to quickly stop exploitation and to shut down a property being used for criminal purposes.

Modern slavery intelligence can now take this fight beyond identifying problems occurring in the immediate vicinity of a property at-risk of cuckooing. The Salvation Army reported it helped over 2,662 survivors of modern slavery between July 2020 to June 2021, with many of these victims being forced into shoplifting and begging.

Specialist Modern Slavery Coordination units within police forces, such as Greater Manchester Police, are applying a new focus to these seemingly petty crimes. Rather than being treated as low-level offences, they are being considered as ‘away-from-home’ indicators of cuckooing. Criminals won’t simply stop at exploiting a vulnerable person’s home. They will also force a person out of the house when it’s being used to prepare and distribute drugs, making them earn money through begging, muggings, shoplifting, burglary and dealing drugs.

Illegal income from such activities doesn’t just help fund an organised criminal gang, it also provides the criminals with leverage. By coercing vulnerable people into committing crimes, gangs can hold this over their victims, with the perpetrators of the cuckooing creating more fear that prolongs incidents or slavery and homes being exploited.

An online conference on February 22nd and 23rd 2022 will look at how modern slavery intelligence is supporting the fight against cuckooing. Greater Manchester Police, along with Greater Manchester Combined Authority, registered providers of housing and other agencies will show how modern slavery investigations and data are providing another valuable piece of information that’s helping to better detect issues of people’s homes being taken over. This will include insights from Programme Challenger, which is Greater Manchester’s partnership approach to tackling serious and organised crime.

Intelligence is being increasingly shared and analysed to build fuller and more meaningful profiles of individuals committing crimes. This helps to create deeper understanding of the root causes of crimes and what other criminal activities that people might be hiding, and especially against their will.

The online conference will also focus on the criminal legislation available and other support options, which are helping housing associations to tackle a problem blighting communities nationwide.

For more information on the Greater Manchester Cuckooing Conference and to register for the event, visit: https://www.forbessolicitors.co.uk/events/24380/greater-manchester-cuckooing-conference

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