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Croydon's Sheriffs set for primetime TV stardom

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THEY look like hard men, but claim to be big softies in pursuit of justice – and now they are turning into Croydon celebrities.

These are the men from the Sheriffs Office, who are starring in another series of The Sheriffs Are Coming – a programme about their work collecting debts around the country.

Kevin McNally, who lives in Croydon, is one of the stars of the documentary – a ratings hit – and told the Advertiser he now regularly finds himself hailed by fans in the town.

"I was walking through Croydon the other day and someone said 'Hey, my wife is owed some money, can you go and get it for me?'

"I've been stopped outside TGI Friday's too, and someone asked me for an autograph the other day.

"The fame hasn't gone to our heads yet though."

Their company, based at Airport House, on Purley Way, is one of the few in the UK to be licensed by the High Court, to put pressure on individuals and companies who owe money to pay it back.

By law, they are allowed to break into properties, seize anything and sell it in auction houses to make back the money if the debtors refuse to pay out.

David Carter, who also lives in Croydon, set up the group five years ago and stressed their difference from bailiffs.

He said: "People think of them as the bad guys or unsympathetic – they go around collecting parking fines and council tax which most people resent.

"We often look after the victims of people who have been ripped off – by rogue builders, car dealers, even really big companies who haven't paid their debts. We're protecting the little guys."

Lawrence Grix, another star of the show who organises the men on the road, said: "It's a satisfying job because it's justice. You're helping out people who have not got a lot of money. I saw my father's company go under because of this when I was younger, and it happens a lot."

Mr McNally also gave an account of the violence they often face on the job, saying: "Only yesterday someone threatened to kill me. We get a lot of 'I'll find you and kill you' threats.

"Most of the officers now wear stab vests. The number of assaults are going up the whole time."

Two people were successfully prosecuted in the last year for assaulting a member of his staff.

"You just have let it wash over you, otherwise you couldn't come into work every day," said Mr McNally.

"I don't know if it's people getting more desperate about money or what, but violence is on the rise."

The team have had to recover money from targets as diverse as huge companies like Fujitsu and people living on benefits.

Mr Carter said the programme has also beaten the record for the most viewers in daytime TV, with their first series getting over two million watchers.

A special edition putting together the best of series one and two will be screened on BBC 1 at 7pm on Monday and Wednesday. Series three, which is being filmed at the moment, will be out next year.

Croydon's Sheriffs set for primetime TV stardom


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