Stockton Council is pledging a zero tolerance attitude to illegal money lending by signing up to an anti-loan shark charter.
The Council, together with a range of community based organisations, will sign the local Stop Loan Sharks Charter on Monday 3 November.
The Charter brings people together to create a cohesive community statement that loan sharks will not be tolerated in the local community.
The local authority and other key organisations, which deal with victims of loan sharks, will make a stand against illegal money lending and send a clear message that they are united in a zero tolerance approach to this crime.
There is often a reluctance to speak about loan sharks, but the Charter aims to start a conversation about the issue and in doing so reach those who are at risk - often some of the most hard to reach people.
The launch has been organised by Stockton Council in conjunction with the England Illegal Money Lending Team and Infinity, Stockton's financial inclusion group to raise awareness and help people in the local community.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton Council's Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety will sign the Charter on behalf of the Council. He said: "Loan sharks can initially appear friendly but their behaviour can quickly change, with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts. Loan sharks are illegal, predatory and should never be considered as an option. We're committed to working in partnership with credit unions and the Illegal money lending team to provide safe and beneficial financial solutions to people in tough times. It is important for those caught in the hands of a loan shark to know that help is available."
Diane Patterson, manager of the Tees Credit Union and chair of Infinity, Stockton's financial inclusion group said: "We fully support the Charter and the strong message that it delivers in saying that illegal money lenders are not welcome in Stockton. As a group we are committed to promoting financial inclusion across the Borough working with a range of different community based housing, advice and credit providers."
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, added: "We will continue to work with Stockton Council to crack down on loan sharks operating in the area, and encourage victims to speak out. Through ongoing awareness raising work we are sending a clear message that loan sharks cause nothing but misery and should be avoided at all costs. If you or someone you know has been affected by a loan shark, please call us in confidence on 0300 555 2222. Lines are open 24/7 and you can remain anonymous if you wish". Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject