Church members to be armed with flip-flops, hats and friendly chat
Street Pastors, armed with bags of flip-flops, wooly hats and listening ears, are gearing up to patrol Borders streets from this summer.
More commonly seen outside pubs and clubs in the cities, the organisation – run by the Ascension Trust – hopes to have people in place on the streets of Galashiels and Hawick to start with, but it is hoped that they would be able to support other Borders communities during local festivals and common ridings.
Originally started in London in 2003 in response to escalating street crime, the initiative has spread throughout the UK to some 260 towns and cities, 22 of which are in Scotland.
First and foremost, it involves volunteers attached to a church heading out at night to listen, care for and help those they meet, particularly young people coming out of pubs and clubs.
Flip-flops can be offered to women tottering out of nightclubs in heels to ensure they have a greater chance of getting home safely.
If someone is the worse for wear, pastors can help them call a friend and sit with them until they come to take them home.
And if it’s cold, warm clothing is at hand.
But mostly, it’s about chatting with them, developing a dialogue and gaining knowledge of local concerns.
A spokesman from one of the local churches told us: “Following successful discussions with Police Scotland and Scottish Borders Council, a meeting was held at Old Parish and St Paul’s Church in Galashiels to look at setting up the initiative in the Borders.
“The meeting was attended by more than 20 members of congregations throughout the region.
“Sandy Scrimgeour the choef executive officer of Ascension Trust Scotland addressed the meeting and spoke about the benefits Street Pastors bring to a town, and also the practicalities of setting up the initiative in the Borders.
“The meeting was enthusiastic about the idea and a steering group was formed to take the initiative forward.
“Sandy presented a suggested timeline which would see Street Pastors active in the Borders by the summer and the steering group has been meeting regularly since then to achieve that aim.”
Street Pastors work in teams of four, and each one will have completed a 36-hour training course and have undergone two supervised patrols before graduating.
Wearing their distinctive blue coats and hats, they will work towards building a relationship with police, shopkeepers, schools and youth clubs, as well as nightclub goers.