A WINCHESTOR charity has come to the aid of hundreds of late night revellers over the past year, figures show.
Since their launch in July 2011, the Winchester Street Pastors have been patrolling the city centre helping those in need whilst on a night out.
In their first year, the street safety campaign has encountered more than 750 people – many in considerable distress.
Mark Hibbert-Hingston, who leads the project in Winchester, said: “Compared to the six months before we started, there was a fall in violent crime.”
The pastors are a charitable organisation and have become a familiar sight on Winchester’s streets.
There are 250 such operations in Britain, including Southampton and Eastleigh, on Friday and Saturday nights.
Pastors work to act as a calming influence, handing out blankets and water to those who appear overly-drunk, even making phone calls and arranging taxis on their behalf.
Over the year 2011 – 2012, there were 165 drunk people receiving some kind of assistance from the pastors in Winchester, while the group attended 86 ‘aggressive situations’, where they intervened to calm things down.
“We have never been physically assaulted, although occasionally we are sworn at,” Mr Hibbert-Hingston said.
Nearly four hundred water bottles were handed out and 477 pairs of flip-flops were given to women for whom high-heels were proving a challenge.
The group are a Christian body, though they are not evangelical. Mr Hibbert-Hingston said: “If we were, the police would not want to work with us. It just wouldn’t work in the same way.”
Some 70 per cent of funding comes from the church, with the remainder coming from the Winchester BID, but a small grant also comes via the North Walls Police Station.
The Hampshire Chronicle reported last year that eleven local churches had pledged support to the scheme, but that to launch patrols covering Friday and Saturday, more volunteers were need.
Mr Hibbert-Hingston said the response from local people wishing to volunteer had been impressive.