Plan to tackle 'cuckooing' by county lines drug gangs in Harrogate and Knaresborough

The possibility of landlords playing a greater role in tackling 'cuckooing' will be investigated.
The possibility of landlords playing a greater role in tackling 'cuckooing' will be investigated.

North Yorkshire authorities will investigate the possibility of clamping down on households suspected of use in so-called 'county lines' crime.

It's one of the actions that could be considered by North Yorkshire County Council's contingent of Harrogate and Knaresborough councillors, who agreed to investigate the issue as part of their future work programme.

County lines crime refers to drug-dealing gangs from larger cities who expand their operations into smaller towns, often using violence to drive out local dealers, while exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.

Coun Richard Cooper, the leader of Harrogate Borough Council who also sits on the county authority, said he "wouldn't want to do anything that betrays the work police are currently doing" given the clandestine nature of police operations.

But Coun Cooper, who acknowledged his town-centre ward had "particular problems" with the issue, said there were aspects local authorities could assist with in tackling county lines crime.

One of these was enlisting local landlords' help in tackling 'cuckooing' - the term for when out-of-town dealers commandeer a house, usually from a vulnerable drug user, to use as their own drug-dealing base.

"One of the things we could look at is how housing associations and landlords enforce ‘cuckooing’ on their properties," Coun Cooper said, adding there was "much more" that private and public sector landlords could do to tackle the issue.

He added that he intended to set up a neighbourhood email group, so residents of his ward could directly email him with issues relating to local drug dealing activities.

Earlier this year, Dr Mohammed Qasim, a criminologist at Leeds Beckett University who studies ethnic minority gangs and drug dealers, told the local democracy reporting service: "There's no better place to take (drug dealing operations) right now than affluent towns".

Dr Qasim said that research has indicated growing numbers of young men are setting up drug dealing networks in wealthy Yorkshire towns, particularly Harrogate.

"Dealers have gone, 'hey, hang on a minute, we can actually set up a venture in these towns'," he said earlier this year.

"The reasons being because drug prices are higher and there are growing numbers of drug users in some of these places, with Harrogate being one such place which has seen numbers heroin and crack users increase."

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter