Police are looking to crack down on the number of vulnerable homeowners who are being exploited by drug dealing gangs in the town.  

The crime, known as cuckooing, is where drug dealers target vulnerable people by establishing a relationship with them, before then offering them free drugs, or money for bills or utilities, in exchange for using their home as a base for dealing.

A new operation, named Operation Trespass, will target these criminals, utilising frequent proactive checks of closure orders and hot spot patrols. 

Swindon Neighbourhoods Chief Inspector Carly Nesbitt said: “We know that cuckooing is a common tactic as part of the county lines business model for the dealers to avoid police detection.

“Dealers will often have access to several cuckooed addresses at once, allowing them to move quickly between them. They will often use threats to control the victim.

“It has a devastating impact on victims, potentially escalating their addiction and causing declines in their mental and physical health.

“Communities also suffer due to the linked anti-social behaviour, increased rubbish, vandalism and general sense of insecurity.

“We would like to ask you, the public, to please look out for your neighbours."

Victims of cuckooing are often lonely and isolated and potentially struggle with drug or alcohol addictions. They may also have learning difficulties or physical disabilities.

Using their home allows the criminals to operate from a property rather than on the street, out of sight of the police.

How to spot the signs of cuckooing
•    People entering the property who would not normally be associated with the tenant
•    Increase in the number of general comings and goings/unidentified people at the property at frequent/unusual times
•    New vehicles, hire cars or bikes outside the property
•    Damage to the door/the door propped open
•    Significant changes in the physical health or emotional well-being of the tenant
•    Increase in rubbish, bins overflowing or increased quantities of takeaway food containers
•    Abandoned and broken bikes left outside property/in communal areas

Wiltshire Police will be distributing thousands of leaflets which will go out to victims of cuckooing and their neighbours, as well as to community partners, warning of the signs of cuckooing and how to report it.

If you suspect a property is being ‘cuckooed’, please report it on 101 or 999 in an emergency. Please mention ‘Operation Trespass’ and ‘Cuckooing’ when you call.

If you don’t want to speak to the police directly, you can call the anonymous Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555111.