This week, the Street Pastors mark their fifth anniversary of patrolling the town centre to help the lost or vulnerable.
Teams of three or four Christian volunteers go out every Friday night, whatever the weather.
Coordinator Martin Hodge said: “It can be intimidating. Especially if there is a large group of people who have had lots of alcohol. They tend to be loud and lairy. Fortunately those occasions are quite rare. I don’t think we have ever had any violence directed at us. Although we have been involved in calming situations down.”
As well as First Aid and safeguarding techniques, they are also trained to resolve conflict and “de-escalate” tense situations.
In March 2012 they saved the life of a 15-year old boy who collapsed after drinking vodka near Tesco. Thanks to their timely intervention, he was rushed to King’s Mill Hospital, in Sutton, where he received life-saving treatment.
Since then, says Martin, the pastors have helped in “lots of little ways” - making sure that people who are in trouble get ambulances, performing First Aid while waiting for the emergency services.
Most recently, he says, they helped a young wheelchair user to get home after he was left stranded in a pub.
And they even collect discarded bottles and glasses to prevent accidents and stop them being used as missiles or weapons.
As a result, their efforts regularly win praise from the police.
Martin said: “It’s all about the people who are there on a Friday night - whether they are there to have a good time or there to work.”
The pastors are based at Under One Roof, on Vine Terrace, where one team prays while the other patrols.
They hand out flip flops to women who are found walking around in bare feet, while lollipops are used as ice breakers to start conversations with the young people they meet. Mobile phone top ups are needed to book taxis to get vulnerable people home safely and call emergency services.
Martin, who has been with the group since it was launched on November 4 2011, says he is concerned about roadworks involved in the town’s pedestrianisation plans: “We don’t know necessarily how safe it is going to be while there are holes in the road. With all the best will in the world, fences can get knocked down.”
Despite this, he says the pastors enjoy the atmosphere - particularly on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
“Sometimes, if it’s wet and cold, you think ‘I don’t fancy this,’” he said. “But without fail you come home thinking ‘It has been worthwhile.’”