VIDEO: Police smash into properties of suspected loan shark and drug dealers on Sheffield estates

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A suspected loan shark who allegedly blighted a community targeting vulnerable residents was one of many offenders arrested as part of a police operation to crackdown on the city's murky criminal underworld.

Dozens of officers flooded areas in the eastern part of the city to smash down the doors of suspected illegal money lenders and drug dealers as part of Operation Duxford.

This man was arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending.

This man was arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending.

A specialist team made up of officers from South Yorkshire Police and the England Illegal Money Lending Team executed a search warrant in Mason Lathe Road, Shiregreen, and arrested a 44-year-old man on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering. This was one of four raids in which a total of 20 arrests were made for a range of offences, including drug possession and burglary.

Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said he could not comment on the particulars of the case as it was too early in the investigation but added victims in other cases nationwide face threats of 'kidnapping, wounding and even rape' if they fail to make repayments.

He added: "These illegal money lenders say they are providing a community service - but they are not. They target the most vulnerable and are extremely corrosive to communities and cause misery on estates."

He added the typical loan offered is about £350 'two or three' times a year and if repayments are not met the consequences can be dire.

Officers search the property in Shiregreen.

Officers search the property in Shiregreen.

Mr Quigley said: "In the worse cases nationwide we have seen threats of kidnapping, wounding, and even rape.

"There are an estimated 310, 000 households in the country who have turned to loan sharks as a desperate way to pay off debts. But they just end up in even more debt and often with depression. It is a ghost economy worth around £700 million a year."

He said it varies from case to case as to how much interest is charged, but in one extreme case a loan shark was found to be charging the equivalent of 4.5 million annual percentage rate (APR) on a loan. The organisation said each year £325 million is borrowed from loan sharks and more than £700 million is paid back - around twice the cost of the original loan.

Mr Quigley said: "If you are having money worries, please don't turn to loan sharks. Contact us or the citizens advice bureau.

Officers gather for Operation Duxford.

Officers gather for Operation Duxford.

"This warrant has taken a number of weeks to pull together and we rely on information from the community. We will continue targeting loan sharks and bring them to justice."

Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for community services at Sheffield Council, said the authority is "absolutely determined to tackle the blight of loan sharking in our communities."

He added: "Our new financial inclusion plan will ensure that every Sheffield resident can get high quality debt advice and budgeting help alongside safe saving and borrowing options from trusted lenders."

The IMLT has just launched a new scheme with Sheffield City Council to offer cash grants to communities using money seized from illegal money lenders. They have three grants of £750 each and applications are now open for community groups.

Operation Duxford saw further warrants executed at suspected drug dens in eastern Sheffield. Extra patrols were also out in force across Darnall, Woodhouse, Foxhill and Page Hall and officers also set up stalls to give crime prevention advice.

Superintendent Bob Chapman said: "We've executed four warrants and recovered quantities of what we believe to be Class A drugs.

"If you are going to commit crime, then we will target you in operations like this. My message to criminals is 'not in our city'."

The operation is due to continue late into this evening and the force said the full results should be due out in the next couple of days.