Rural buy-to-let property at risk of exploitation by ‘sub-human’ crime gangs
Rental owners are being warned their properties could be at risk from urban drug dealers moving into rural Suffolk.
The Home Office warned letting agents and landlords to be wary of tenants offering cash up-front for more than six months’ rent – one of five signs of exploited children being housed to courier drugs and money across the country.
After a National Crime Agency report found urban gangs rented property in rural and market towns to use as a base, the Home Office released posters to help crack down on ‘county lines’ – urban dealers establishing new markets, with a single phone line operated from outside the area.
With county lines gangs known to use other people to rent homes, owners have been told ways to minimise the risk of a property being used for criminal activity.
Signs to spot include a tenant offering to pay cash up-front for a long period, appearing affluent but wanting inexpensive property, being unable to provide landlord or employment references, preferring to pay cash without good justification and preventing an owner from inspecting the property when given notice.
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The Home Office said posters had been designed to help letting agents and landlords identify criminal tenants and report concerns to prevent exploitation.
A similar move, in April, saw security guards, taxi drivers and train staff told how to spot young people being used as drug mules.
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Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “We have to treat this as a public health issue, which the whole community has to help tackle. The longer we delay, the worse it will become.
“Raising awareness among groups that could provide intelligence is important.
“I welcome any move that helps make Suffolk a hostile environment to these sub-humans.
“We know there’s anxiety about retribution – and that’s why ways of communicating information anonymously, like through Crimestoppers, are so important.
“Criminal activity can wreck communities – and that means the economy as well.
“No one could have predicted these vile people would prey on others’ misfortune like this.
“It’s going back to the Stone Age. They’re behaving like wild animals. It’s very sad but we’re determined to crack down on it.”
Concerns about prospective tenants being involved in county lines can be reported to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.