Experts not surprised’ by cuckooing problem
Families who are unable to provide basic items could be susceptible to cuckooing, a charity said.
Family Centre said many families do not have the support needed, and as a result, they may be susceptible and tempted by offerings from ill-gotten means.
The charity was responding to a police report of possible cuckooing happening here in Bermuda. Cuckooing is a crime in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing or other criminal activities.
Martha Dismont, the executive director of Family Centre, said “In these difficult and challenging economic times for Bermuda residents, this is not surprising. It sets a very dangerous precedent.
Ms Dismont added: “Families whose basic needs are addressed are less likely to succumb to offerings of support in this way. A protective factor for families is for them to believe, and know, that they have a means of support that is positive and accessible when they fall upon difficult times.”
Ms Dismont said Family Centre was unaware of the practice of cuckooing, but urged the police to encourage and help to set up neighbourhood watch groups.
She added: “It is unfortunate that the public is being increasingly urged to note the behaviour of those around us.
“This sets up a very unhealthy and fearful environment for our most vulnerable, and we would like to encourage a number of things, including increased police support to protect our most vulnerable.”
Ms Dismont said family members can also help to protect their loved ones from criminals.
She said families should identify times when seniors or children may be at home alone, and secure additional supports to eliminate any risk of vulnerability to criminal behaviour.
She added that people should be paying close attention to unfamiliar movement around their property and alert the police.
Ms Dismont pointed out that cuckooing was intimidating, and that the police presence would be needed if this occurs.
She added: “If possible, an increase in police presence in neighbourhoods — occasionally, and randomly walking about- would help residents to feel safer and encourage residents to be more proactive in reporting suspicious behaviour.”
Claudette Fleming, executive director of Age Concern also believed preventing cuckooing would take a community effort.
She said seniors with diminished mental capacity may not be in a position to speak out.
“It is really up to the people in the community who may observe things to report them. They (seniors) may not see it as abuse because they are getting help,” she warned.
She added that it may take grocers, the mail delivery person or the neighbour to recognise that something is wrong. “It will be up to the community to help,” she added. Dr Fleming said, although she was not aware of recent incidents, cuckooing was not a far-stretched idea.
She recalled dealing with a similar situation years ago with an elderly woman who had someone set up in her home.
Dr Fleming said: “She didn’t see anything wrong because she was getting help.”
Desmond Crockwell, director of YouthVision Promotions, said he was not aware of the practice, but said communities had to work together to prevent this.
Mr Crockwell said: “ I would suggest that neighbours help those who are vulnerable and targeted as I would assume it has an impact on not only the targeted house, but also the innocent neighbours.”
He added that vulnerable people needed extra eyes for support. Mr Crockwell also called on those targeting the vulnerable to desist from the practice and not to put others at risk.
“The innocent should not suffer for the guilty,” he said.
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