Officers protected 50 people whose Northampton homes were at risk from a drug gang takeover
Fifty people have been safeguarded in Northampton after they were identified as cuckooing victims - the illegal practice of taking over the home of a vulnerable person to use it for drug dealing.
Over the past 18 months, police have worked alongside the borough council, Northampton Partnership Homes, probation and adult and child social services and have secured closure orders for 16 of the town’s properties, which were being used for drug dealing.
PC Neil MacKenzie from the local Neighbourhood Policing Team said: “We have been working with 50 people identified as being victims of cuckooing over a sustained period of time, which includes regular visits and signposting them to support mechanisms where appropriate.
“I am confident that in doing so we have reduced risk, prevented harm and anti-social behaviour while identifying offenders, many of whom are now in custody."
In many cases there is often a rise in anti-social behaviour in places where cuckooing is taking place and the tenant could be seen less often, or never alone.
This can include an increase of number of visitors to a property, rubbish and litter nearby, noise nuisance and disturbances at the property.
PC MacKenzie added: “Victims are often lonely, isolated and vulnerable and may be drug users themselves. Gangs locate and groom these people, prior to taking over their addresses by force or coercion.
“We can’t tackle this problem alone and continue to appeal to our communities to let us know when they have concerns about one of their neighbours, friends or relatives who may have become victimised in this way so we can take action to safeguard the person and investigate those people who have taken over their home.
“We will continue to work relentlessly to make this town a hostile place for offenders who wish to exploit vulnerable people in this way.”
Northamptonshire Partnership Homes (NPH) has secured home closure orders through its specialist support team.
"With the support of police we have been able to change the lives of tenants by getting them into a safe environment in a supported way," Paul James, NPH tenancy compliance officer, said.
"We would encourage any of our tenants who are suffering harm or intimidation to get in touch with us - we offer non-judgemental, practical support and will always take action against criminal activity.”
Councillor Anna King, Northampton Borough Council Cabinet member for community engagement and safety, added that the council is training frontline staff and also working hard to progress prosecutions through their anti-social behaviour unit.
“Although we will continue to build on this work, we’re pleased that our partnership approach has safeguarded 50 individuals and led to several landmark cuckooing specific injunctions,” she said.
Anyone with concerns about the suspicious activity can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.