Drug gangs from outside the county are operating in Corby and taking over the homes of vulnerable people to use as criminal bases.
The town’s train station has made it easier for gangs to come into the town and establish a local drugs market by preying on vulnerable people.
The practice, which is called cuckooing, is a growing problem both nationally and in Northamptonshire’s towns.
Speaking at a crime and disorder meeting on April 11, Community and Partnerships Inspector Julie Mead said: “We have got a gang problem in Corby like we have in Kettering, Wellingborough and Northampton. We are doing some problem-solving around that to make sure we prevent Corby getting to the problems of places like Manchester.
“If we have a gang coming down a county line and they want to sell drugs in our area they want a base to work from and so they will target vulnerable members of our community, whether that’s someone with mental health issues or perhaps a young mum who has her own accommodation. They will ingratiate themselves with them, have a party and move in.”
Insp Mead said the gangs then groomed young people by giving them drugs and making them work for them to pay off the debt.
She said early intervention was the key to tackling the problem before it got worse.
She told Corby councillors: “We need to work together to get that early intervention and prevention, as opposed to team police having to come in when the wheels come off.”
Corby police’s community safety team has been working closely with Corby Council’s community safety manager Antonia Malpas and her staff to identify vulnerable people and give them support to be able to deal with the problem.
Police cadets have also leafletted thousands of homes in Corby to make people aware of cuckooing.
Cllr Mary Butcher, who is Corby’s Council’s representative on the police and crime panel, said the train station had made the town more susceptible to drug gangs.
She said: “We have opened the door by opening up the railway station. Gangs are coming here from London as it is in easy reach.
“We can stop things becoming bad but we have to work together to do it. These gangs will find Corby an easy target. We don’t want to see our young people get entangled in this. Once it is here you can’t get rid of it. It is like a cancer.”
She called on her fellow councillors to report any concerns they had about drug gangs to the police.
Northamptonshire Police has said there are a number of signs when cuckooing may be taking place, with a rise in anti-social behaviour. Increased visitors to a house; more rubbish and litter; noise nuisances and disturbances outside the property can be warning signs. Also the homeowner or tenant may be seen less often, or in some cases never seen alone.
Anyone with concerns about the suspicious activity can call police on 101 or call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.