Fifty victims of cuckooing safeguarded in Northampton
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Fifty people have been safeguarded in Northampton after they were identified as being victims of cuckooing, the illegal practice of taking over the property of a vulnerable person to use it for drug dealing.
Over the past 18 months, officers have worked alongside partners from Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire 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.
This follows a series of training events to increase awareness amongst professionals and a public awareness campaign, calling for communities help to tackle the increasing problem of cuckooing. Tactics used have included targeted work in specific areas of town with officers door-knocking and speaking to residents to make sure they are aware of the signs which may indicate cuckooing at a particular address.
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.
“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.”
Partnership work is essential in tackling cuckooing and officers have been working closely with Northamptonshire Partnership Homes (NPH) to secure closure orders.
Paul James, NPH tenancy compliance officer, said: “Working in close partnership with Northamptonshire Police helps us to keep our tenants safe and well, which is a priority for NPH.
“We have an accredited support team that provides specialist and tailored help to victims of cuckooing. 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. 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: “Cuckooing is a dangerous practice which impacts not only on the vulnerable individual but also the surrounding community.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to improving community safety and building resilient communities in the town, we’ve been working hard with partners to not only raise awareness of cuckooing and train frontline staff, but to also progress prosecutions via our 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.”
Cuckooing - Signs to look out for:
In many cases there is often a rise in anti-social behaviour in places where cuckooing is taking place. This can include an increase of:
- number of visitors to a property
- rubbish and litter nearby
- noise nuisance
- disturbances at the property
Alongside an increase in anti-social behaviour, the tenant is seen less often and in some cases is never seen alone.
Anyone with concerns about the suspicious activity can call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.