A TEAM of police honoured for a campaign raising awareness of the perils of using loan sharks in Runcorn have received their award.

The initiative – known as Operation Gripped – earned Runcorn Local Policing Unit the Outstanding Trading Standards Initiative Hero Award from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

Set up by Detective Chief Inspector Clare Coleman, the project was ran by PC Ian Hampson and PCSO Georgina Griffiths who worked alongside Halton Council Trading Standards and Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT).

Together they have educated communities about the risks of illegal money lending and highlighted safer borrowing methods to help prevent the use of loan sharks.

In a short space of time the project has received a number of successes including the launch of a social media ‘Spot the Shark’ competition, which reached over 64,000 users, engaged with local schools to take part in a competition to design a Christmas card as well as producing a profile raising and imaginative Lego animation.

The team continue to carry out a significant amount of work within the community with partners and particularly with local schools.

The team have also been awarded a Cheshire Police Chief Superintendent commendation and been nominated for an ACE Award.

Chief Inspector Sarah Heath, of Runcorn Local Policing Unit, said: "This is a fantastic achievement and I would like to congratulate everyone involved for all the work they have accomplished over the past 12 months.

"This incredibly varied and innovative campaign has certainly raised awareness of loan sharks across Runcorn. With the team working with our partners it has further helped to support extremely vulnerable people and ensure others do not become victims of this crime.

"The team involved in Operation Gripped continue to be recognised for the outstanding work they’re doing and they should be very proud of all their hard work."

T/Detective Chief Inspector Clare Coleman said: “I never anticipated just how successful Operation Gripped would be when I originally set it up. The team involved have gone beyond my expectations and thoroughly deserve to be recognised for all their hard work, passion and enthusiasm in protecting our community from loan sharks.

"PC Hampson and PCSO Griffiths continue to educate and engage with school children as well as the public and have undoubtedly improved the awareness of the pitfalls of illegal money lending.

"It goes without saying that the sheer number of awards the project has either won or been nominated for is testament to the tireless commitment of all those involved."