A SCHEME designed to help diffuse alcohol-fuelled problems on the streets late at night has launched in west Wiltshire.

Street pastors will soon be patrolling the streets of Trowbridge after dark, offering people a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to their problems.

The scheme is run by a group of Trowbridge churches and is supported by the police and the town council.

Although it is Christian based, the street pastors will not be patrolling the streets to preach.

David Goldstone, chairman of the management committee, said: “We will just be providing a presence on the streets - a listening ear if people are in trouble or to provide information about hostels or to just sitting with someone who has had a bit too much to drink and making sure they get home safely.”

At the launch night at the Civic Hall on Thursday, about 35 people turned up to hear from Roger Reid, of the Ascension Trust, which started the scheme in London back in 2003.

Since then it has enjoyed enormous success in some areas, with reductions in the levels of crime in areas where street pastors are working.

The Trowbridge group is now looking for volunteers to come forward who are interested in becoming street pastors.

About 24 people are needed initially and each will be expected to go out in a team about once a month on a Friday night from 10pm to about 3-4am.

Full training will be provided in the early part of next year and the street pastors will be hitting the streets of Trowbridge in about February or March 2009.

Mr Goldstone said: “The police can only arrest someone if they are drunk, whereas we can go in there and look after them.

“A street pastor could be sitting with a drunk person for five hours but if that means people don’t get a criminal record and have someone to talk to - it’s about the safety of our kids.”

Anyone interested in becoming a street pastor should contact Stewart Palmen on stewart.palmen@virgin.net or call 01225 753479.