A MAN has been safeguarded by police after suspected out-of-town drug dealers took over his property and used it as a base to peddle illegal drugs.

Officers from Essex Police’s drug squad - Operation Raptor - executed a warrant at a home in Sutton Road, Southend, after neighbours reported serious concerns for the man’s welfare.

The team were joined by members of Southend’s community policing team who raided the property on Monday and found three men - two of whom were not from the area - as well as a quantity of drugs and cash.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: “Officers attended an address near to Sutton Road in Southend after concerns for a man’s welfare were raised following reports of cuckooing.

“A 19-year-old man from Southend and an 18-year-old man from London were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply drugs.

“A 25-year-old man from Wolverhampton was arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply drugs and criminal damage.”

The three suspects have been released under investigation while the police’s investigation continues.

A spokesman for the Southend policing team added: “The team swooped and seized cash and a quantity of drugs.

“The resident was also safeguarded to reduce the chances of this occurring again.

“Excellent result and great team work with our colleagues from Op Raptor.”

“County lines” drug dealing is a term used when drug gangs from big cities, like London, expand their operations to smaller towns like Southend.

They often use violence to drive out local dealers and exploit children and vulnerable people to sell drugs.

They also use a form of crime known as cuckooing where they take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug-dealing.

As of 2010, the practise has become common among drug gangs.

Essex Police set up Operation Raptor teams in the North, South and West of the county to tackle drug and gang-related crime across the county.

If you have information or concerns about drug or gang-related crime in your community contact Essex Police by calling 101 or independent crimefighting charity Crimestoppers 100 per cent anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Residents can also share information online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/give-information-online