Street Pastors to curb Friday night trouble

CHRISTIAN volunteers, known as Street Pastors, are set to hit Hucknall as part of an innovative new scheme aimed at keeping the town centre trouble-free on Friday nights.

Trios of pastors will go out on patrol between 7 pm and 11 pm, starting on Friday November 4.

The aim is not to preach to town-centre drinkers but to chat with them in a bid to diffuse any tensions that might arise.

The pastors will also talk with those who are feeling vulnerable and emotional and help to guide them towards support services.

They might even hand out flip-flops if ladies can no longer handle their footwear after the night’s excesses!

Hucknall’s police chief, Insp Nick Butler, has been influential in attracting the Street Pastors team to Hucknall with help from Rebecca Whitehead, of Ashfield District Council.

He regards their arrival in Hucknall as something of a coup because it is the first place they will operate in Ashfield.

“I wasn’t sure how the Street Pastors would work,” said Insp Butler. “But after doing some research, I found that, without exception, towns where they operate have been delighted with their impact.

“Crime figures won’t necessarily plummet but the pastors will have a big impact on inspiring confidence that the town centre is a positive and safe place to be.”

The Street Pastors initiative was pioneered in London in January 2003 by the Rev Les Isaac, director of the Ascension Trust. There are now more than 100 teams around the UK.

Each project is set up by Ascension Trust and run by a local co-ordinator with support from the Trust and local churches and community groups, in partnership with the police, local councils and other agencies.

In Hucknall, 18 pastors, operating in six groups, have committed to working in the town every Friday night for the foreseeable future. There could be scope to extend their duties to other nights.

Work towards launching the initiative has been ongoing for almost a year and the pastors have been in training for a month. This has included getting to know the area, learning first aid and disovering how to deal with drug users.

Their initial focus will be on High Street, the Ashgate Retail Park opposite the Tesco superstore and the area around Hucknall Leisure Centre.

A commissioning service will take place at Watnall Road Baptist Church before the pastors hit the streets on November 4. Added Insp Butler: “I am delighted the Street Pastors are coming. They are volunteers. Nobody is being paid and they are giving up their own time, which is very admirable.

“We have made significant improvements in recent years in the look of the town centre and reduction in crime and this scheme will help improve things further.”