UK drug dens
'Cuckoo' drug dens are springing up across the UK as dealers occupy the homes of vulnerable people. AFP / Getty Images

Drug dealers are turning the homes of vulnerable people into drug dens , police have warned .

The practice, known as "cuckooing," involves taking over people's homes, much like the bird that occupies the nests of other birds.

With their homes occupied by drug dealers, the victims have no choice but to cooperate.

In one instance, a tenant with mental health problems was targeted by drug dealers at his flat in Ipswich.

Landlord Martin Holland described his tenant's predicament. "He was having to go back to a flat that was basically full of people dealing drugs," said Mr Holland.

It's a growing problem and for families it's absolutely devastating.
- Simon Cobb, senior social worker, Iceni Project

"On a couple of occasions the police actually did do raids on the flat and a dozen or so people were in the flat, none of whom were really proper friends of his. They were basically dealing drugs from here... and how could that be any worse for someone?"

The man was eventually re-housed after Mr. Holland contacted authorities.

Former addicts are also easy prey for dealers. Simon Cobb, a senior social worker at the Ipswich charity the Iceni Project, recounted how an ex-user was taken advantage of by her former dealer.

"We've had one girl, four foot nothing, she's sitting at home with her two toddlers. She's an ex-user trying to stay clean," explained Cobb.

"An old friend has knocked on the door and said, 'Can I come in and use the phone?' She has said, 'Course you can', and two huge guys have come in with her and taken over the flat for two weeks."

When the police raided the property, they found crack pipes under the high chair.

Cobb said the problem has worsened over the past two years. "It's a growing problem and for families it's absolutely devastating," he said.

David and Janis Rinder have experienced what it is like to live next door to a drug den in Ipswich. "(It was) absolutely horrendous - frightening. So much traffic going in and out... noise... everything," said Mr Rinder.

Superintendent Louisa Pepper said Suffolk Police are "relentlessly pursuing" the dealers, who are often teenagers.

"If they are coming here to deal drugs then we will deal with them and you will see from the number of individuals going through the courts we have had a lot of success. We are using innovative ways to apply legislation to make sure we can hold individuals who have interesting ways of concealing drugs."

The legislation means police can hold a suspect for long enough to "pass" any wraps that they have hidden inside themselves.

They are also working with agencies across the town to intervene and help those being targeted.

While there have been several incidents of cuckooing in Ipswich, police have warned criminals are being sent to towns around the country by crime bosses in London.

Violent drug dealers were targeted in a series of raids across north London. More than 150 officers took part in raids in Haringey, north London, that led to the arrest of 18 suspected male drug dealers.