Police in the North east have been cracking down on 'cuckooing' drug dealers who target members of the community by taking over their homes to store or deal drugs.
Typically this can involve criminals travelling from other areas of the country such as Liverpool, Sheffield and London to the North East to deal drugs.
Detective Constable Kirsty Welsh, from the Divisional Intelligence Office, explains: "We know from gathering intelligence that one way drug dealers do this is by exploiting persons in the community who are an easy target such as those with substance abuse problems.
"They will look to take over their homes, in the same way the cuckoo bird takes over another bird's nest, to assist with their illegal operation be it for storing or dealing drugs.
"We are urging residents to be aware of the warning signs that such activity may be happening in their neighbourhood and report any concerns.
"There are a number of potential signs of cuckooing which include the householder having new associates and increased visitors throughout the day and night, an increased number of vehicles outside the property including taxis or hire cars and bags of clothing or bedding around their property or other signs that people may be staying at the address."
Detective Inspector Allen Shaw said: "We will relentlessly pursue 'cuckooing' drug dealers and those who choose to engage themselves in the illegal supply of drugs and associated antisocial behaviour but we need the support of the community to do this.
"We are also working with partner agencies including the NHS, Local Authorities and Social Work Department to support those who may have been targeted by drug dealers from out with the area.
"For families and members of the community experiencing this near to their home it can be horrific as well as unsafe. There may be a build-up of rubbish in communal areas, increased noise and evidence of drug misuse. We are urging people if they see any early warning signs to say something so we can take action.
"Our officers work closely with forces across the UK, as well as partners and independent agencies like Crimestoppers.
"If you have any concerns please contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to remain anonymous."