A chilling expansion of the London drug trade into Crawley by dealers known as ‘cuckoos’ is being investigated by Sussex Police.
Officers say that gangs have been increasingly trying to establish drug distribution throughout the county and have used threats of violence.
According to reports, drug gangs are particularly targetting towns within easy reach of London as fresh sales’ territories.
They call it ‘cuckooing’ when dealers arrive in a new area and quickly identify a vulnerable local addict whose home they commandeer and, like a cuckoo, force them out. The house or flat becomes a ‘regional headquarters’ for gang members.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said that it was not a new phenomenon, but it had been on the increase for the past two or three years ‘especially involving the use or threat of violence.’
Said the spokesman: “Sussex Police works closely with law enforcement partners, including the National Crime Agency, the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit, British Transport Police and neighbouring forces, to deal with the known threat of drug dealing stemming from London.”
And, he added: “The areas in Sussex most affected by the drug trade from London are the larger coastal towns, with established drugs markets that can be exploited locally, namely Hastings, Eastbourne, Worthing, Bognor, and Brighton.
“However other areas can be affected too and police in Crawley have been working closely with local partners to ensure this threat is effectively addressed.
“We actively target drug dealing on a divisional and district basis wherever they are identified and there have been many local examples of successful disruption, and court convictions of dealers which receive publicity.”
Chief Inspector Dave Padwick said: “We are working closely with Crawley Borough Council and with the multi-agency Safer Crawley Partnership, and all of us are in agreement that dealing with the issue of serious and organised crime is a priority community issue for the borough.”
In a Crawley operation - dubbed Operation Enforcer - earlier this year Crawley Police cracked down on drug-related crime with 19 arrests made in two weeks.
The arrests were all made for a variety of offences including drug possession and money laundering. Class A and B drugs with a street value of around £20,000 were seized, as well as an estimated cash haul of £90,000.
The police spokesman added:”Anyone who has suspicions or information about drug dealing in their community or wider afield can contact the police at any time via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 101.”