POLICE have made three arrests and seized a cash after a blitz on organised crime.
Officers teamed up with the Regional Asset Recovery Team (RART) and the England Illegal Money Lending Team in a series of early morning raids in Sunderland on Tuesday.
The activity targeted people suspected of being involved in or connected to organised crime, including illegal money lending.
Warrants were executed at a total of eight addresses: North View, Riverdale, Devon Drive, Harrow Square, Howe Square, Cranberry Road, all in Sunderland; Breamish Street, in Newcastle and Morson Avenue, in Crook, County Durham.
As a result, an estimated £120,000 was seized by officers in total as well as a number of computers, telephones and financial documents.
Three people have been arrested: two men, aged 66 and 53 and a 68-year-old woman on suspicion of engaging in an act requiring a licence. All have been bailed pending further enquiries.
The investigation into the arrests will be carried out by RART.
Other items seized included a number of cannabis plants, counterfeit goods and a large quantity of fireworks.
Detective Inspector Phil Bond, from Northumbria Police’s Crime Department, said: “Northumbria Police is aware that illegal money lending does take place, particularly in this tough financial climate.
“Illegal money lenders target those people in the community who are vulnerable and generate a spiral of debt which victims can’t get out of.
“We are determined, with our partners, to put disrupt this activity and put loan sharks out of business. I hope today’s action demonstrates just that.
“Money is also the driving force for organised crime and criminals resort to a range of tactics to try to benefit from their ill-gotten gains.
“With partner agencies, we will investigate and uncover those arrangements, put criminals before the courts and ultimately seek to seize their criminal assets.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said: “Northumbria Police will continue to do everything within their power to crack down on illegal money lending. We will work in partnership with local authorities to help residents who are affected by those committing this crime.”
Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth, Sunderland Area Commander, added: “This joint activity shows our commitment to tackling those people believed to be causing most harm in our communities by disrupting and dismantling their activities.
“As always, we would ask the public to contact us with any concerns they have in their neighbourhoods so we can seek to take positive action.”
Detective Inspector Andy Eaton, from RART, added: “We are committed to ensuring that organised crime doesn’t pay and will endeavour to maximise the Proceeds of Crime legislation to its full extent.”
Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are a scourge on our communities; exploiting and extorting borrowers and sometimes resorting to the worst kind of bully tactics to force people into paying back far and above what they have borrowed and can afford.
“We are cracking down on these criminals in partnership with the police and trading standards, and would urge anyone who has been a victim of this crime to speak to us so we can take action.”
People can contact police on 101, extension 69191 or via the Northumbria Police website, www.northumbria.police.uk
To report a loan shark call the 24-hour confidential hotline 0300 555 2222, text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or private maessage the Illegal Money Lending Team on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject