A church initiative that has seen anti-social behaviour and rates of street crime plummet in London boroughs hit the night spots of Swindon at the end of September.
Patrols of Street Pastors, wearing distinctive blue jackets and baseball caps, will provide a calming presence, a listening ear and a helping hand. Twenty-two volunteers from seven churches across the town completed their twelve week training which started in June and will be on the beat from 28 September.
Their aim is not to preach at people but to demonstrate their beliefs in a practical way. That could involve defusing a violent situation, helping somebody get home safely or being a shoulder to cry on.
When Jane Perrot, who moved recently from Freshbrook to Old Town, read about the scheme co-ordinated by the Ascension Trust, earlier in the year, she was galvanised into action.
She had spent many evenings searching the town centre for her 14 year old daughter, who was caught up in a cycle of drinking and drugs. Walking the streets in the early hours of the morning, Jane could see the need for a caring presence in the scenes of mayhem that anybody who has been near the town centre pubs and bars on a late night will have seen.
She spoke with friends and church leaders and discovered that Rev Paul Rush had recently moved to Swindon. He had already established Street Pastors in Leicester and agreed to co-ordinate the scheme here.
Rev Rush said the street pastors will be looking for people who need practical assistance. “It could be a girl who has had a bust up with a friend and is in a panic about how she will get home – we’ll put her in a taxi. Or maybe somebody in a drunken state has lost their shoes. We’ll be carrying flip-flops so that they don’t cut their feet on the broken glass that’s everywhere.
“Swindon is not a bad place of a evening; most people are just out for a good time. But if one person is in distress or needs help after a fight, then we’re there to help. If they say they’re OK, we will walk away from the situation.”
Now that her daughter has overcome her problems, Jane hopes she can save others some of the distress she experienced. “If street pastors had been around, it would have been another pair of eyes and someone for her to have spoken to.”
For details, and to donate money and new flip flops, see details at:
Rev Rush and Jane are pictured above