SUSPECTED drug dealers have been kicked out of two more council houses in Wokingham in an ongoing bid to stop them exploiting vulnerable tenants and keep the community safe.

Working with Thames Valley Police, the borough council and other agencies to secure partial closure orders on the properties in Winnersh and the Emmbrook areas.

The suspects are believed to have been ‘cuckooing’, in which one or more people move into someone else's property and control the occupants through threats or even physical violence.

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The orders, which run for three months, only let specific people like council staff or the police enter while anyone else found inside can be prosecuted.

The council’s community safety team visited the Winnersh property following reports from concerned members of the public and found evidence that suggested cuckooing was taking place.

They worked with police to keep an eye on the suspected victim, who is now being supported, and the partial closure was granted at Reading Magistrates’ Court shortly afterwards.

These cases follow an incident on Wokingham's Norreys estate earlier in the year, which also led to a successful application for a partial closure order.

Councillor Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “We share our residents’ shock and sadness that cuckooing happens here but, unfortunately, it's happening in many places and we're not immune.

"However, we're determined to target offenders and protect their victims as they’re often vulnerable themselves through addiction, mental illness or other things that aren’t their fault.

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"As well as working with police to kick ‘cuckoos’ out, we work closely with those affected to help them come to terms with their ordeal and address any underlying problems.

"We know it’s daunting to report something like this, so we assure the community that we're taking this seriously. If you come to us we’ll listen, we’ll act and we’ll protect those who need it."

A council community safety officer added: “Victims often think these people are their friends, and may feel they’re ‘in too deep’ by the time they realise they’ve lost control of the situation. It’s often become unbearable so they’re thankful and relieved when we step in.

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“We can act quickly once we know what’s going on and we’re incredibly grateful when people contact us because this is a crucial first step in turning things around. If you’re worried for yourself or a neighbour, please don’t hesitate to tell us.

“There are all kinds of signs, from unusual noise and people coming and going at odd times to strangers mistakenly knocking on your door looking to ‘buy something’. If anyone is dealing drugs in one of our properties, we’ll find out and work with the police stop it.”