CALLOUS criminals who have targeted vulnerable residents in order to take over their homes to use as boltholes for drug dealing have been warned their actions will not be tolerated in Barnsley - after enforcement teams vowed to protect those in need of help.

So-called ‘cuckooing’ - which sees gangs identify victims’ properties before effectively turning them into drug dens - has been on the rise, prompting action to be taken by Barnsley Council.

A flurry of closure orders have come into force, which allow the council to protect tenants who have been targeted by banning unauthorised visitors.

A total of 17 have been granted at Barnsley Magistrates’ Court, the Chronicle can reveal - two of which were approved last week on Coalby Walk near the town centre and Noble Street, Hoyland.

Council bosses from the local authority’s ‘Safer Barnsley’ scheme have warned gangs that their behaviour won’t be tolerated - and urged neighbours to look out for telltale signs of cuckooing.

Paul Brannan, head of Safer Barnsley, said: “Closure orders are very much at the top end of our enforcement activity - it’s often a vulnerable tenant who’s targeted, so we can protect them by banning any unauthorised visitors from entering their home.

“We have to have a concrete case to do so and often it’s neighbours who are invaluable in that process - being vigilant is key.

“They can provide information anonymously and do so via all the usual reporting systems, whether that’s online or 101.

“Whether they see anything suspicious or undesirable characters entering or loitering, that information could be useful to us and we can follow that up.

“We’re there to provide support to both those who are being targeted and the neighbours whose lives it also impacts.”

Of the 17 closure orders, 13 homes were under Berneslai Homes’ control, two were privately rented and two were owned by the occupier.

Paul Davies, a senior case management officer who has spearheaded the recent closures, added: “There’s a correlation between cuckooing and organised crime gangs so we’ve been keen to move quickly to protect vulnerable residents.

“Aside from the most recent closure orders, we managed to dismantle a town centre drugs ring operating from three properties on an estate off Summer Lane near the town centre.

“Criminals took over homes to use them as a base to deal drugs and males from Birmingham, London and Ipswich were involved.

“There’s no finesse in what they do to get inside a property - sometimes it’s as simple as a door knock but it just about always involves a vulnerable target who obviously become petrified.

“Those responsible are usually wanted, they’re involved in organised crime and are often deployed to an unfamiliar place by their gang to infiltrate an area with drugs which is what we saw on Summer Lane - that’s known as county lines crime and it’s extremely serious.

“We are being proactive and shutting down properties much quicker and there’s support systems in place whenever a closure order is granted.

“Out of the 17 closures, we’ve only had to revisit two properties after the three-month period has ended, so it shows they are effective.

“Barnsley Council’s leading the way on stamping this criminality out and the message is very much that it will not be tolerated.”

* If you have any information about suspected drug crime in your community, you can report it to police on 101 or the council by emailing You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, via their website or by calling 0800 555 111.