POLICE have warned Colchester residents about the tell-tale signs of cuckooing in the city.

Three arrests were made last week following the exposure of a drug dealing operation, with Essex Police later saying they were treating several people as victims of cuckooing.

Det Sgt Mark Ghosh, an Essex Police safeguarding officer, explained addresses which suddenly look dishevelled in appearance or have regular visitors arriving at night-time could be homes which have been taken over by drug dealers.

He said: “People can become quite reclusive because their freedom gets taken away.

“Properties might become dishevelled, there might be dirt around the windows, frequent comings and goings at the address, foot traffic at odd times – people might suspect drug dealing, but not cuckooing.

“Anything out of the ordinary – if you haven’t seen someone for a while, for example.”

He added the police is increasing the number of welfare checks on class A drug users after the three deaths in Colchester last week.

He added: “As a result of what has happened in the last week or so, we will be supplied information on potential Class A drug users that need support work around them.

“We link up with Open Road to make sure that if adults want rehab support, we can offer that to them.”

What is cuckooing?

• Cuckooing involves drug dealers targeting a vulnerable drug user’s address

• The drug users are targets for criminals because they may be lonely and isolated

• Dealers approach them, offering free drugs and then force them to ‘repay’ drug debts

• They then move into the victim’s address and operate the property out of sight from police

• Whilst at a cuckooed property, criminals often deal drugs and store weapons

• There will often be a lot of people going in and out of a cuckooed property