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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Pastors give out flip-flops and lollipops on streets of Carlisle

Volunteer pastors have been spreading Christian love among Carlisle’s late-night revellers to help tackle drink-related problems.

Street pastors photo
Kathy and David Howe, from Carlisle

Cumbria police launched the Street Pastors scheme on Saturday night, in partnership with Christian charity the Ascension Trust. A uniformed team of volunteers patrolled Botchergate from 10pm to 4am, looking out for clubbers in vulnerable situations.

Each was armed with a police radio, along with vital tools like bottles of water, flip-flops, lollipops and anti-spike bottle stoppers.

Major Katerina Lennox, who helped organise the project, said the pastors were welcomed by clubbers and businesses.

She said: “They were very well received. They had a lot of conversations with people, who wanted to ask them questions and take pictures with them.

“Once people realised they weren’t getting paid, I think they warmed to them very quickly.”

One of their key roles was as “listening ears”, available to anyone who felt they needed someone to talk to. They also offered practical help, including water for those who had over-indulged and flip-flops for women who were having trouble walking in high heels.

She added: “The lollipops are useful as a calming influence – if you start giving out lollies, people are much less likely to get angry with you. They were also picking up bottles from the pavement, because if a fight started they could become a weapon.”

The 18-strong team of volunteers will patrol every Saturday night on a rota basis, in mixed-sex groups of four. They are all committed members of local churches, who are happy not to preach or lecture clubbers on their lifestyles.

Inspector Di Bradbury, who heads the City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “I absolutely embrace the chance to work with the Pastors. They have all gone through a standardised and professional training programme and wore recognisable uniform.

“Their presence was well received by people on Saturday night, and they brought with them a visibly calming influence.”

Pioneered in London in January 2003, the Street Pastors project now includes 100 teams of volunteers across the UK. Organisers claim it has seen some remarkable results, including drops in crime in areas where teams have been working.

The pastors are co-ordinated by the Ascension Trust, in partnership with churches, community groups, police and council officials.

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