Army battles demon drink

PUBLISHED: 07:51 13 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:08 24 May 2010

DRINKERS in Weston town centre could soon be greeted with a friendly face and a helping hand at throwing out time under plans to launch a street pastor scheme

DRINKERS in Weston town centre could soon be greeted with a friendly face and a helping hand at throwing out time under plans to launch a street pastor scheme.Street pastors would walk the streets from 10pm to 4am in high-visibility jackets and baseball caps to help the thousands of revellers trying to get home who might get themselves into trouble.Working with the police they hope to tackle problems like binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled crime.In places like London, Birmingham and Southend the police have recorded a 95 per cent reduction in calls relating to public disorder whenever the pastors were on the streets.The idea to introduce the scheme in Weston has been put forward by Captain David Evans, of the Church Army, supported by the police.The plans will be put before North Somerset Council to get its backing and the pastors could be on the streets by the middle of summer.They would be based at Emmanuel Church in Oxford Street and would meet for prayers before going out. They would also be briefed on any hotspots to keep an eye on.Cpt Evans, a former policeman, said: "It's about listening, caring and helping. "On one occasion, in Southend, everyone assumed a bloke who was lying in a doorway was drunk and ignored him. "A street pastor went to help and it turned out he had suffered an epileptic fit. The pastor made sure he was safe, cared for and not in danger of being mugged. It's easier to walk by on the other side and that's what we are trying not to do."About 17 people have already volunteered to be street pastors and will undertake a 12 week training course covering subjects such as counselling and drugs awareness. Each street pastor will work in a team of four.Police spokesman Sergeant Dave Holtby said: "The scheme has had fabulous results elsewhere."The cost of taking a drunkenness or assault case through to sentencing is £190,000 when you take into account costs from the police, the NHS, courts and the prison service. On any one night there could be up to 20 arrests."By intercepting incidents at the early stages the pastors will not only help us reduce crime significantly but lower the cost to the public."When people find themselves stranded in some way or potentially at harm the pastors prevent them becoming a victim of crime."We can give them advice on which areas to go to where they will be most needed and give them access to officers who are on duty 24 hours a day.

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