Cash confiscated from convicted loan sharks has been awarded to four Wiltshire projects.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team working in partnership with Wiltshire Council launched the Your Choice scheme to give residents a say in how money confiscated from convicted loan sharks is under proceeds of crime legislation is spent.
Around 130 votes were cast online, with the public choosing Wiltshire Credit Union as the overall winner.
The credit union will receive £1,000 to create promotional literature promoting the organisation as a safe and legal alternative to loan sharks.
Each of the following projects received £800: Wiltshire Citizens Advice and Selwood Housing Assocation will use the funding to organise a leaflet drop and an after-school event at Studley Community Hall.
The event will target parents and children, providing them with information on the dangers of loan sharks.
Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service will use the funding to hold three events, around the county aimed at older people. The events will provide information on illegal money lending, home safety and accessing local services.
Wiltshire Community Bank will use the funding to continue to provide the services of three credit unions at a new location in Salisbury. They will receive training from the Illegal Money Lending Team about the dangers of loan sharks and continue to promote the anti loan shark message in the community.
Keith Humphries, cabinet member for public protection at Wiltshire Council, said: “I’m delighted these four deserving projects will receive this money to carry out good work which will benefit the local community.”
Tony Quigley, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Through this scheme the extorted cash is being put to excellent use.
"Thanks to everyone who voted or entered a bid - you have contributed to making a difference and tackling this crime in your community.
"Loan sharks are a scourge on society and cause harm and misery to their victims, but we are continuing to tackle them in Wiltshire and across the country.
"We would always urge victims of illegal money lenders to seek help by contacting us in confidence on 0300 555 2222”
Nationally the Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 310 prosecutions leading to nearly 200 years’ worth of custodial sentences.
The teams have written off £55 million worth of illegal debt and helped nearly 24,000 victims.
To report a loan shark: call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003, email email@example.com or post a private message to www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject