Churchgoers to tackle crime in Sidmouth?

Street pastor plan in the pipeline

CHURCHGOERS could turn crime-fighters and carry out holy patrols of Sidmouth’s streets at night.

Police this week revealed they’d welcome volunteer congregation members walking the beat to prevent antisocial behaviour and help people in trouble.

Sergeant Andy Turner said his neighbourhood team has been approached over a ‘street pastor’ scheme for Sidmouth.

“We’re already in talks with a local church and trying to arrange a meeting,” said Sgt Turner. “I’m all for this. Bad behaviour, especially when fuelled by drink, is often seen as a by-product of something else.

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“Police don’t have time to sit down and talk to people and see what’s causing it. Street pastors will. I’ve been really impressed with schemes in other areas and how they’ve conducted themselves.”

Civic leaders have expressed fears that constabulary cuts and a major force shake-up have left the town with a perceived lack of a police presence.

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Giving his personal opinion, Barry Lowden, vice chairman of All Saints Parochial Church Council, said: “I can’t speak on behalf of the church, but I think we’ve got to establish a need first.

“There was talk of it, and a number of members expressed an interest in the concept.

“It provides a visible, approachable presence on the street, looking out for anyone in some form of trouble or distress.

“It’s also an opportunity to talk to people, calm situations and provide a service to the community.

“That can’t be anything but good.

“Should there be sufficient interest within the community then, yes, we would be interested. I’m sure people would be very supportive.”

He hoped any such scheme could be interdenominational.

All Saints Church warden Phil Cranch added: “It’s something we’d be keen to get involved in, if there is a need. We’d seek volunteers within the congregation.”

Street pastor projects are typically run by local churches and community groups in partnership with police, councils and other statutory agencies.

Sidmouth Town Council chairman, Stuart Hughes, said: “It seems quite a good concept, if people are willing to volunteer.”

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