Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Friday, 19 September 2008 17:31 UK

Crime 'drop' where pastors patrol

Torquay Street Pastors
The volunteers patrol the town centre at weekends

There has been a drop in reported crime since the street pastor project began in Torquay, said the police chief with responsibility for the area.

The street pastors are volunteers from local churches who patrol the town centre overnight offering assistance to those who need it.

The scheme, which is run in a number of towns and cities across the UK, began in the Devon town six months ago.

Supt Chris Singer said he had noticed a "different feel" to the area.

A woman came up and thanked us for saving her life
Ros Ede, Torbay Street Pastors

"Their work on the street has undoubtedly contributed to a greater sense of overall safety.

"I have noticed a different feel to the area whilst I have been out on patrol... they are very present, very visible," he said.

In the area covered by the street pastors reported violence has fallen by 18%, robbery has fallen by a third and sexual offences and vehicle crime have also been reduced since the same period last year.

Supt Singer said that while it was "difficult to quantify" how much this was down to the volunteers, it would be "wrong" to overlook their impact.

"This is an example of a community which has seen a need and is working to make a difference," he added.

Widespread scheme

Ros Ede, who co-ordinates the street pastor project for Torbay, said: "A woman came up and thanked us for saving her life.

"She said a few weeks earlier she had gone down to the harbour to end it all, one of the team just sat with her and talked and she changed her mind.

"On another occasion we found a five-year-old boy playing on his own on the harbour slipway. We managed to reunite him with his mother, who was in a nearby nightclub.

"The biggest thing for us is the gratitude of the youngsters we meet. Girls say to us, if they ever feel threatened, they know they can ring somebody for help."

The street pastors patrol Torquay town centre every Saturday night and one Friday a month.

A similar scheme recently started in Plymouth and there are also plans for street pastors in Exeter, north Devon and Cornwall.




SEE ALSO
Street pastors offer helping hand
09 Sep 08 |  Tayside and Central
Street pastors mark first weekend
08 Oct 07 |  Lincolnshire

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