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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Crackdown on illegal loan sharks
A woman opening a purse
The pilot will try and establish the extent of the problem
The first dedicated unit aimed at cracking down on loan sharks is being launched in the West Midlands.

The so-called "loan shark project" will tackle gangs who lend money then use threats of violence to extort larger sums of money in return.

Eight ex-police officers in Birmingham, will test the idea, with another scheme in Glasgow launching soon.

The 2m projects will be piloted over the next two years, with the possibility of a nationwide roll out.

The pilots will also act as fact-finding exercises to try to establish the extent of illegal money lending in the UK.

Criminals

Consumer Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said he wanted loan sharks "off our streets".

"Loan sharks are criminals and it is vital that we do not allow the actions of these crooks to destroy the lives of innocent people," he said.

The initial pilot is based in Birmingham but is intended to cover the entire West Midlands.

Members of the public can contact the team on 0121 693 1122.

People who live outside the pilot areas, and who are concerned by the activities of loan sharks in their area are advised to contact their council's trading standards department.




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