Drug gangs are “regularly taking over the homes” of the vulnerable and mentally ill to use as a base for their nefarious activities, ministers have heard.
Tory MP Gillian Keegan told MPs the practice, known as “cuckooing”, had become a regular problem in her Chichester constituency.
According to HM Courts and Tribunal Service there has been 187 convictions of gang members linked to cuckooing in the South of England since 2015.
Police struggle to identify the gang leaders who control the cuckoos as they're based outside the countyGillian Keegan MP
Ms Keegan, speaking in the Commons, said: “In Chichester drug dealers are regularly taking over the homes of vulnerable people who suffer mental health problems or drug dependency themselves, in a process known as cuckooing.
“Sussex Police tell me that they struggle to identify the gang leaders who control the cuckoos as they’re based outside the county.
“What steps has the CPS taken to prosecute these gang leaders effectively to deter others from exploiting the most vulnerable in society?”
Solicitor General Robert Buckland responded: “She is right to raise the issue of cuckooing and the need for local police forces like Sussex to work collaboratively with other police forces.
“A very good example of this was a case in Swansea last month were two London based gang members were convicted in the crown court there because they trafficked a teenage girl to Swansea to deal heroin and crack cocaine.”
Later in the question session Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly called for extra funding to tackle gangs leaving London for the home counties.
He said: “Essex being one of the home counties suffers from the displacement effect of gang activity from London and we have seen unfortunately pockets, and only pockets at this stage, of violent gang activity in the county.
“So can I ask the Solicitor General what resource, what financial resource is the Government allocating to tackle serious gang violence?”
Mr Buckland outlined that the Government, as part of its serious violence strategy, had committed to spend £40 million over the next two years on early intervention and on a county lines co-ordination centre.