Blackwood's street pastors provide support for people out at night in town
Volunteers from the Christian organisation Street Pastors are celebrating a year of helping to keep the community in Blackwood safe.
Street Pastors are a UK-wide initiative established in 2003 by the Reverend Les Isaac, director of the Ascension Trust.
They work in town centre locations providing support, advice and a listening ear for people out in local pubs and clubs.
There are over 100 street pastor groups across the UK with more in development.
After reading online about the work of street pastors in Wrexham, Insp Alan Webber, from the partnership team at Caerphilly local policing unit, invited representatives from local churches for an initial meeting with the Ascension Trust.
They gave a presentation about the work of Street Pastors and explained more about their role and how they can support their community.
Baptist minister Sue Phillips is Blackwood's Street Pastor coordinator
This meeting led to the establishment of Blackwood street pastors a year ago. Their coordinator is Sue Phillips, minister at the local Elim Baptist church.
Blackwood street pastors currently have 24 volunteers from churches in the local area. They work in groups of three or four in the town centre on Friday and Saturday nights from 2200 to about 0200 providing help, support and a listening ear to people enjoying a night out in Blackwood.
Sue explains "We wear a uniform and carry rucksacks containing water, flip-flops and lollipops. We give out hundreds of lollipops, which are great for calming people down."
"Sometimes some of the girls may be a little the worse for wear after a night out and have lost their shoes, so we give out flip-flops so they're not walking barefoot around the streets."
"We talk to people, help calm them down, make sure that they're safe and give out water. We find that girls are sick through drink more often than boys, so we sit with them and make sure they're ok until a friend, family member or taxi arrives."
She said the feedback in Blackwood was very positive and had not experienced problems with verbal abuse or aggression when working.
Volunteers hand out water, flip-flops and lollipops to town centre revellers
"Some of our volunteers are older ladies in their 60s and 70s. We've never experienced any problems with drunken aggression towards us. It's been an absolute joy."
"We have a good relationship with the CCTV control centre and keep in regular contact with them. The door staff and staff working in the takeaways are great. We love doing it."
Insp Webber said: "They have a great calming effect on people and can pacify them more easily perhaps than authority figures like the police. They've been really well accepted by the younger people in the town."
"Although the organisation is totally independent of the police, their work supplements the crime reduction activity that we endeavour to provide and they are a tremendous support."