AN appeal to find volunteers to patrol Woking town centre late at night has attracted double the number of people originally hoped for.
Almost 60 people have applied to join the town's Street Angels following an autumn plea from church leaders for helpers to come forward.
The volunteers will assist anyone who appears vulnerable through being either intoxicated or homeless, and it is hoped they will ultimately cut the amount of drunken behaviour in Woking.
Rev Jonny Blair, rector at St Paul’s Church in Oriental Road, said they had set a minimum target of 30 people to cover rotas on a four-week basis from February.
“It’s just fantastic and we are thrilled that so many people want to help in this way,” he said.
“Because of this we will now have even larger teams on-site. People will be able to volunteer every five weeks instead of every four.
“We are pleased with that because although Woking town centre is quite lively, it is also quite a compact place.”
Woking Churches set up the scheme, together with the Safer Woking Partnership and Surrey County Council’s local committee.
They hope to follow in the footsteps of the successful Street Angels in places such as Guildford and Camberley.
Surrey Police figures for August to October showed a 25% increase in violent crime in Woking on the same period last year. The force dealt with an average of 40 incidents, including muggings and assaults.
August was the worst month, with 43 violent offences, and the town centre had the highest proportion of these.
However, according to Surrey Police, the Street Angels have helped cut crime in Guildford by a third on Friday and Saturday nights.
“It is truly heartwarming that so many people are keen to give up their time to help others in difficulty or distress,” Rev Blair said.
“Some of those people will have become detached from their groups and be even more vulnerable. One thing we will need to make clear is that we are not the police.”
Rev Peter Harwood, rector of Christ Church in Town Square, was not surprised by the amount of people who had offered to help.
“Although it takes quite an effort to spend a whole night out on the town there is a great desire to be of service,” he said.
“I am not shocked that so many people have volunteered their time, but I am still delighted.”
The new recruits will take part in a full training programme, run by Woking Churches together with the police.
They will then be invited to a commissioning service at Christ Church on February 13 before patrols start on February 18.
The Street Angels are still keen to hear from anybody who wishes to help out. Find out more at www.wokingstreetangels.co.uk.
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