When Ed Anderson, the outgoing High Sheriff of Leeds came to our club recently, he told us of how one of the memorable experiences of his year of office had been going out on night patrol with the Leeds Street Angels. This week we had the benefit of a talk from Katie Waters, their co-ordinator. It was fascinating.
As their website makes clear, since 2012 the Leeds Street Angels have been helping to make Leeds city centre a safer place to be on a night out.
We help people stay safe and we reduce crime. We work alongside other agencies and our aim is to provide practical care, listening ears and look out for people as they work and play in all the city has to offer.
Katie Waters - Street Angels: Katie explained how their teams are out at night from 10 pm to 3 am, patrolling the streets in their bright yellow high visibility jackets. Their mission is to look after people who have become vulnerable as they enjoy the night life, perhaps to excess. They work in close partnership with the police and other emergency services and are in communication with the CCTV network City Watch, and have built up helpful relationships with door staff at the nightspots.
The Angels carry an interesting mix of practical equipment: first aid kits, bottles of water, flip-flops for ladies who have become separated from their impractical footwear, ‘spikies’ [devices that fit in the top of a bottle with a straw to prevent malicious spiking of drinks], battery chargers to restore mobile phone communication, foil blankets for people who have lost their clothes, and even ‘throw lines’ and ‘glow sticks’ to help those who have occasionally fallen into the River Aire.
The Angels are very good at helping people to recover from crises that would otherwise use the resources of the emergency services: caring for people who are lost, frightened, separated from their friends, sick or – quite often- drunk.
When not looking after people they make themselves useful on patrol by picking up bottles that might have been used to cause injury – 1,180 bottles last year.
Katie explained that Leeds Street Angels is part of CNI (Christian Nightlife Initiatives) Network, which works in 125 communities across the UK, with a presence at music festivals, and also in Spain in the areas where Brits congregate to enjoy the nightlife. She was keen to emphasise that patrolling is fun, and most people enjoying the night life are good humoured. Nevertheless I found myself full of admiration that the Angels are prepared to put themselves on the line every weekend to protect the vulnerable. They make our city a safer place, and we are grateful to them.