Bradford Street Angels: 3 yrs street patrolling
AS Bradford Street Angels go out on patrol tonight (Friday), they will be celebrating a fantastically successful three years of helping to make the city centre a safer place.
The group, who as ever, will be braving the cold from 9pm to 3am, have helped reduce city centre crime by 22 per cent and serious crime by 60 per cent - an achievement made possible by the army of volunteers who support the initiative.
And in just a short time, the angels in their recognisable day-glow jackets, have become a welcome part of the furniture for Bradford's clubbers, theatre and restaurant goers.
Now Bradford South Centre Neighbourhood Policing Team Inspector Kevin Pickles has issued this special birthday message them saying: "Congratulations to the Bradford Street Angles. They have become a very valued partner and instrumental in bringing about this reduction in city centre crime."
He said he was impressed with the support and commitment shown by the angels saying: "Only last month 45 people came to the training session and I think this just shows the community strength we have here in Bradford."
He added: "The Street Angels really do an important job in assisting members of the public and to keep them safe, which allows the local Neighbourhood Policing Team staff to concentrate on other matters."
Bradford Street Angels grew out of a church project called Hope Bradford where founding members met together for the first time and discussed Halifax's pilot street angels project.
City Centre Vicar Reverend Chris Howson said: "I just knew it was going to work. It was obvious God had his hand on it from the start. We needed premises and the German Church responded so willingly. The meetings with the police were so positive. We knew it was going to work."
He added: "There are some amazing people in Bradford and some amazingly strong Christians too, with such commitment and a heart for the city."
They launched the project before Christmas 2007 with the aim of bringing courtesy and Christian care into the city centre. Now, a total of 300 volunteers have been police trained to ensure partygoers' fun nights out don't end in disaster. Many are volunteers from a range of churches, others are students who spend some of their time in Bradford giving something back to the city.
Some simply saw the angels in action while out and about in Bradford and wanted to play their part.
Volunteers range in age from 18 to 70, with some making cups of tea and others pounding the beat, sometimes giving medical care, in communication with CCTV operators and the police.
The service is well loved in the city. The Rev Howson said: "Every night we go out, the warmth we get from the public is just wonderful and the police who run the training events make us feel very valued.
"We've had everyone come out with us - magistrates, local councillors, the BBC - no MPs yet," he added, smiling.
Speaking about the last three years, he said: "My best times are on a clear warm and peaceful evening where nothing much happens or when you pick up a woman who has got a bit tipsy, lost her friends and you've rung someone to pick her up and prevented a possible attack."
Asked what his worst times have been he replied: "The death from a road traffic accident but I felt pride at the way the angels helped people traumatised by the event."
Bradford Street Angels were instrumental in last Christmas' "Operation Northdale" which hugely reduced the number of sexual offences in the city, winning West Yorkshire Police a special award from Association of Chief Police Officers.
Meanwhile Paul Blakey, who set up the first street angels in Halifax, was earlier this year awarded the MBE. Now the teams from Halifax and Bradford both travel to other towns and cities who want to set up similar operations.