A WEEK of action is being launched in Middlesbrough to crack down on loan sharks who prey on vulnerable people.
The Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) – a specialist unit that investigate and prosecute loan sharks – are working with Middlesbrough Council and partner agencies to deliver a range of awareness-raising activities during February half-term.
The activities will run from 12th to 16th February and will raise awareness of the dangers of loan sharks and the help and support available to victims.
The Mayor of Middlesbrough, Dave Budd and Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner, Barry Coppinger will attend North Ormesby Community Hub on Monday 12th to sign a charter pledging a zero tolerance approach to loan sharks in the town.
Key organisations such as the IMLT, Middlesbrough Council, Thirteen Housing, Tees Credit Union and Pioneer Credit Union will join the Mayor in taking action against illegal money lending by signing the zero tolerance charter.
Dave Budd, the Elected Mayor of Middlesbrough, comments:
“Loan sharks profit off other people’s misery. They prey on the vulnerable and cause untold damage to families and communities. It is absolutely right that we do everything we can to raise awareness of the tactics used by loan sharks and give people the confidence to report such activity.
“We need to ensure that people have alternatives to these criminals. That is why I pledged the council would launch a community bank – which should open later in the year – to give local people access to fair credit as well as support and advice.
“I am delighted to sign this pledge, alongside partners from across the local community to say we stand together against the illegal money lenders and commit ourselves to driving them out of Middlesbrough.”
The charter signing will be followed by a targeted leaflet drop in the North Ormesby area. The IMLT will join officers from Middlesbrough Council and Thirteen Housing to deliver loan shark information leaflets to properties on Beaumont Road and adjacent streets.
To mark Shrove Tuesday on the 13th, Cleveland Fire Brigade have organised a fire safety event for local residents. IMLT mascot “Sid the Shark” is set to make an appearance at Trinity Centre between 9am and 1pm to deliver a flipping-good pancake demonstration.
Officers will be speaking to residents at the event to try and generate new intelligence about suspected illegal money lending in the area.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, comments:
“Loan sharks target some of the most vulnerable people in society and operate in deprived communities so it’s important that we work in partnership with other key local organisations to tackle this crime.
“We have organised a range of activities that we hope will generate new intelligence about suspected illegal money lending activity in Middlesbrough. If you or someone you know have been the victim of a loan shark, we urge you to seek help by contacting us on 0300 555 2222. All calls are strictly confidential and victims will be offered welfare support while we build a case against the loan shark.”
Advice on everything from debt and illegal money lending, to housing and crime prevention will be on offer at a community event at North Ormesby Community Hub on Thursday 15th between 11am and 5pm. There will be face painting and balloon modelling activities on offer for children and families.
Valerie Gibson, Manager at North Ormesby Community Hub, comments:
“I think that this is a fantastic opportunity for residents to realise that help is available to them should they encounter debt problems. The event will also provide information for savings and loans which are available through the credit unions so residents never have to turn to loan sharks and high-cost lenders.”
Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation have donated two match tickets for the Middlesbrough against Hull game on 20th February. Each person who attends the event will be given one free raffle ticket and will be entered into the draw for the football tickets. There will also be another prize up for grabs which is a tour of the Riverside Stadium for four people.
Tees Credit Union and Pioneer Credit Union are set to launch their new incentive at Thursday’s event which will award members with loan sharks’ cash once they have saved for 12 weeks.
The first 50 new members to join either one of the credit unions and save as little as £1 per week for 12 weeks will receive a £25 boost into their account. This incentive is being funded using cash that has been seized from loan sharks under money laundering laws.
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
To report a loan shark:
Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text a report to 078600 22116
Visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk
Private message us on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject