Community groups are waging war on unscrupulous loan sharks in Leeds.
Cash extorted by convicted loan sharks is being ploughed back into the community to help stop vulnerable residents becoming victims.
Groups across the city have been awarded thousands of pounds to help educate people about the dangers of turning to illegal money lenders.
Hundreds of residents voted for a variety of different projects to receive a share of £3,000 as part of the England Illegal Money Lending Team’s Your Choice initiative.
Leeds Refugee Action will receive a cut of the cash to help produce leaflets and face to face sessions about avoiding loan sharks to refugees in the city.
Charity Mencap has also received a share of the funding to provide a series of informative sessions for people with learning disabilities to prevent them from becoming victims of illegal money lending.
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “The event was hugely positive with the extorted cash being put to excellent use.
“Some fantastic bids were received and the winning projects will continue to highlight this crime and encourage people to make a step change away from borrowing from loan sharks.
“These criminals are a scourge on society, causing harm and misery to their victims, but we are continuing to tackle them in Leeds and across the country.
“We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence.”
Cow Close Corner Community Centre will also benefit from the cash by providing information sessions.
The new community centre will also distribute reusable shopping bags branded with a loan shark helpline number,
Breeze will also run an activity stall at festivals in Leeds this summer and will distribute money boxes with the hotline number.
Groups from across the city showcased their ideas at Farfield Community Centre, in Bramley, alongside representatives from West Leeds Debt Forum, who offered support and advice.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team have so far prosecuted 220 illegal money lenders from across the country.
David Lodge, divisional manager at West Yorkshire Trading Standards, added: “This innovative scheme gives the public a say in how money extorted by criminals can be put back into our communities.
“It helps to educate people of the dangers of loan sharks and ultimately help put an end to this type of crime.”
To report loan sharks, in confidence, contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team on 0300 555 2222.