A police warning has been issued about drug gangs targeting vulnerable adults to take over their homes as a base for their criminality.
In a week long crackdown on gangs exploiting children to expand their drug networks, it has been revealed that some organised crime groups are taking over the homes of vulnerable adults as a base for their activities.
Known as ‘cuckooing,’ gangs use the homes of vulnerable occupants to store drugs and weapons or as a base for dealing in the hope of avoiding detection.
Detective Chief Inspector Jon Cousins, leading this week’s crackdown, said: “Organised crime groups are increasingly looking to target young people with ‘clean skins,’ those who are under the radar in terms of being known to police and local authorities.
“However, it’s not just young people gangs will look to exploit. Organised crime groups may also take advantage of adults who are vulnerable and can sometimes take over their homes in what’s known as cuckooing.
“Cuckooing sees offenders essentially taking over the homes of victims, typically vulnerable adults.
“They may use the house for a few hours, days, or sometimes longer for the supply and distribution of drugs in one area.
“Houses tend to be used for short periods of time to deliberately avoid detection and ultimately arrest and again, offenders may use threats of or physical violence to ensure someone is kept in their home while they are dealing from it.”
As part of this week’s operation, officers are looking for gangs trafficking children around the country to deal drugs to avoid those at the top of the chains getting caught.
DCI Cousins added: “In South Yorkshire, we are typically seeing this happening within the county, and we’re working hard alongside our partner agencies, schools and charities to put measures in place to protect vulnerable people and identify any offenders.
“Tackling this type of criminality, and protecting vulnerable people cannot be done by police alone though and we are working hard alongside key partner agencies, local schools and charities to raise awareness and protect those who are most vulnerable.
“Victims are often mistakenly viewed as having chosen to engage in criminal behaviour. What we need to understand is why they are engaging in this and how they became involved.
“We need to safeguard them, not criminalise them. This doesn’t mean that those involved in criminality will simply be let off but we need to protect them and put the necessary safeguarding measures in place so that they are protected and do not become involved in this type of criminality again.”
Call South Yorkshire Police on 101.