Six months of hard work and training culminated in 25 street pastors being commissioned for Hemel Hempstead on Friday night.
The scheme, which already runs successfully in Watford, is a joint project between the town’s churches, police service and Dacorum Borough Council which hopes to bring a calming presence to pub and club nightspots at the weekends.
A special service was held at the South Hill Centre on Cemetery Road to send the street pastors out on their very first patrol. Graham Richardson, chair of the scheme’s management committee, said: “Street Pastors has almost taken on a life of its own. The whole community seems to have embraced it.
“It seems to be no longer simply a Christian initiative, it is a collaboration we have started to call the ‘urban trinity’ of police, the local authority and the church.”
Present at the launch event were police chief inspector for Dacorum Glen Channer and his predecessor Mike Pryce, deputy mayor Penny Hearn and the family of Billy Dove, who was killed in Hemel Hempstead town centre in 2011.
Chief Insp Channer said: “We welcome the street pastor team to Hemel Hempstead and look forward to working closely with them to continue to improve issues within the community. They provide a reassuring presence and have an important role to play in ensuring anyone who may be vulnerable or in crisis can get home safely, reducing the likelihood of them becoming involved in, or a victim of crime.”
It is for this reason that Billy’s Wish, the charity set up in the murdered 21-year-old’s memory, felt compelled to support the street pastor scheme. The charity donated £1,354 raised from a Zumbathon in November to the street pastor team during Friday’s event.
Billy’s father Paul Dove said: “We are excited about street pastors. It is a brilliant scheme and just having somebody around will help to make the streets safer for the vulnerable people out there. I think it will make a difference.”
Paul’s sister and Billy’s aunt Sally Masson added: “We are very proud to be able to help, and we know Billy would be very, very proud of this legacy. Everything we do is for Billy.”
On their first stint in the town, the newly-formed teams of between three and four street pastors patrolled the Marlowes and Market Square areas, offering a friendly chat to those ready for a night out with friends, or companionship for people walking home alone.
Mike Wallis, a team leader and member of the management committee, said: “We have been working hard over the last six months getting everything into place and getting all the pastors through training.
“We are all commissioned now and we are so excited to get on the street. We want to help people who need it, we can listen to people and care for them, no matter what their circumstances.”
After a successful first round of training, the management committee hopes to use its funding to recruit another batch of street pastors later on in the year. This way, they hope to have more teams on patrol on both Friday and Saturday nights, to help bring peace to the streets.