Runcorn officers and the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have launched a new initiative to help educate future generations about the dangers of loan sharks.
The scheme has been developed in partnership with Sandymoor High School in Runcorn and Widnes-based animation company Mako.
As part of the week-long project, Mako has been working with pupils at the school to teach them how to create imaginative Lego animations focusing on the dangers of illegal money lending and loan sharks.
It is hoped that the animations will now be used to educate other pupils about the dangers of loan sharks at schools across Runcorn.
Police constable Ian Hampson, from Runcorn local policing unit, said: “This is a fantastic initiative which not only allows pupils to develop the skills they need to produce animations but also provides them with vital knowledge about the dangers of illegal money lenders.
“We know that loan sharks have no thought for their victims. They prey on some of the most vulnerable members of our community, which is why we are keen to warn people, no matter what age they are, about the perils these criminals pose.
“I hope that all the pupils who have taken part in the scheme will be able to use the knowledge they have gained to ensure that they always steer clear of loan sharks and I look forward to working with other schools across Runcorn in the near future.”
The scheme has been funded by B&M Halton Lea store and forms part of an ongoing initiative by PC Ian Hampson and PCSO Georgia Griffiths aimed at tackling loan sharks and illegal money lenders operating in the Runcorn area.
As part of the initiative, pupils at the school were visited by Cheshire police and crime commissioner David Keane, chief inspector Sarah Heath and representatives from the IMLT.
They saw the pupils in action as they created their animations.
Mr Keane said: “It is great to see the work that officers are undertaking to help tackle illegal money lending and I would like to thank all of the pupils who have taken part in the initiative.
“Borrowing money from loan sharks can be extremely dangerous, so it is essential that we do all we can to educate people of the dangers and inform them about the help and support that is available.”
Tony Quigley, head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We are extremely grateful for the support of the local policing team in raising awareness of loan sharks across Runcorn.
“It is very important that young people understand the risks associated with borrowing money from loan sharks and know that there is help and support out for them.
“The animations will serve as a reminder to peers, parents and relatives of the perils posed by illegal money lenders and that these criminals should always be avoided.”
Sally Jones, Acting Principle of Sandymoor High School, said: “We are very proud to have been selected to take part in this initiative alongside the police and the Illegal Money Lending Team. It is so important that our children are warned about the dangers of this activity and the implications it can lead to within our society.
“Our students have relished in the learning experience the team have provided and hopefully it will lead to many others being educated within their family circles as a result.”
Anyone who believes that they have been a victim of an illegal money lender is urged to contact the confidential stop loan sharks hotline on 0300 555 2222 or visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk.