Three suspected drug dealers have been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences and ‘cuckooing’ while living in a Wokingham council house.

Wokingham Borough Council and Thames Valley Police joined forces to secure partial closure of the property on Norrey’s estate after they suspected they were living there without permission.

Concerns were raised by members of the public when they spotted unfamiliar people coming and going at all hours or loitering outside.

They reported that it had ‘become a magnet for nuisance noise, with doors banging and other disturbances day and night.’

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Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “We will not let people get away with this horrific crime, which causes huge suffering to those least able to protect themselves, and encourage anyone who suspects it's happening to report it.

“Victims' lives become totally controlled so we're working with the police and other organisations to ensure they're supported after their ordeal ends - whether that's help with an addiction, social isolation, housing, a mental health problem or something else.”

The act of ‘Cuckooing’ is where criminals move into someone's home and then increasingly abuse and control them, usually using violence or threats.

Perpetrators of this are often linked to unscrupulous “county lines” gangs moving drugs from London to sell in surrounding regions.

In some cases, the perpetrator may know the victim who may see them as “friends” after slowly taking over their lives.

Cllr Shenton explained: “It's hard to face the fact that your 'friends' have exploited you and some victims don't have anybody else to turn to, so it's paramount that we offer that lifeline and prevent further harm as they readjust to normal life.”

“We know this is causing concern in parts of our borough where it's happening, so we want to reassure the public that this is firmly on our radar. This month's partial closure order is just another step in a much wider campaign to tackle the problem.”

‘Cuckooing’ and anti-social behaviour have been a growing issue within communities across the borough. The council have said that they aware of residents’ concerns and have drawn up an action plan with police to identify these individuals and properties affected.

The partial closure order runs until April 6 and means that only specific people including council staff or police officers may enter while anyone else will be actively pursued for prosecution.