Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

DON'T LET LOAN SHARKS PREY ON VULNERABLE; Campaigners Battle to Save Moneylending Squad

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

DON'T LET LOAN SHARKS PREY ON VULNERABLE; Campaigners Battle to Save Moneylending Squad

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDY PASSANT

THE FIGHT goes on to save a Teesside-based team targeting ruthless loan sharks who could prey on the vulnerable this festive season.

Campaigners fear cash-strapped Teessiders may be at greater risk of intimidation and violence if the North East Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is scrapped.

The team's work is particularly important at a time of year when many families face financial pressures. It is feared that some could be tempted to turn to loan sharks.

The Office of Fair Trading has warned people to avoid using illegal money lenders.

The North East team was set up to crack down on callous criminals who prosper by exploiting vulnerable victims.

But now ministers are proposing to close down the team, which is based at a secret Teesside location, and switch the operation to a national team in Birmingham.

Loan sharks make money out of the misery of others, especially in more deprived areas like Teesside.

HEADLINES: Two of our previous stories, above Critics say the continued presence of the North East Illegal Money Lending Team in this area is crucial.

They say local knowledge and intelligence is key to tracking down illegal lenders who might otherwise pass under the national radar.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop said MPs across the North-east were fighting to keep the team here. He said an announcement had been due earlier this month but wasn't forthcoming.

Mr Blenkinsop said: "I like to think it is a good sign. What we are pushing for now is to get an adjournment debate to push the issue. Our argument is that if you have that team in the North-east permanently it delivers more results. It is a false economy taking that team out of the North-east."

The MP said the team had successfully targeted those who prey on the most vulnerable.

"Basically it is just robbery. It is a gradual system of robbing people."

The impact on victims can be devastating.

They may be drawn into fencing stolen goods, drug running or prostitution to repay the debts. …

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