Wallingford Street Pastors
Newsletter No 58 June/July 2023
This report covers June and July because my wife and I enjoyed much of June and a bit of July on holiday in France.
Some of our newly qualified recruits went out on duty for the first time, for some it was baptism of fire. There was a large group of youngsters running along the street and fights were breaking out. We had to call the police (something we only do when we really need to). Other nights were fairly quiet in terms of action but there were important conversations. For example, following the death and funeral of a girl by suicide a number of her friends had gathered at one of the pubs and were only too pleased to unload their feelings on us. On another night someone wanted to talk about the problems of life, such as becoming a teenage dad. After the GCSEs ex-6th formers talked about their futures. These opportunities to listen are exactly in line with our policy of “Listening, caring and helping”. It is a privilege, not a burden.
Once again one of our team helped out with patrols at Henley Regatta. The patrols are coordinated by the Reading Street Pastors and based on Henley Baptist Church. It seemed to be a little quieter than in previous years. We were told that the police were very appreciative of our presence. With Reading Festival and our own Bunkfest coming up shortly we will be looking for additional support from our local team.
Our MP David Johnston organised a consultation on 15 June at Waitrose to discuss crime in the area. We were pleased to be invited and a couple of our team went along to hear what was being said. We learned about how the police operate in the area, but more of that later as we have a training session with them scheduled for 2 August. A lot of the focus is on identifying “hot spots” for drug abuse or antisocial behaviour.
The Willis Building
We were invited by Wallingford School to attend the official opening on 12 July of the new building dedicated to Will Willis, retired head teacher. Will was a great supporter and encourager of Street Pastors and we were very pleased to renew links with the school. We anticipate being invited to speak to the 6th Formers as we have done in previous years. It was also an opportunity to talk to a number of Town Councillors who had heard about our concerns about “County Lines” and wanted to know more.
Stamp Out Spiking (SOS)
Spiking is something we have been aware of for many years, so we carry plastic inserts for narrow neck bottles. We were contacted by this organisation who were offering free stickers that can be placed over glasses of beer or soft drinks. I was surprised when visiting Bean and Brew on Anti-Spiking Day, 15 July, to find that both the manageress and the waitress had at some time been Spiked and have no recollection of how they got home on those days. They were keen to have a supply of the stickers to give to youngsters. Our patrol on Friday 14th also gave them out as they walked around and again they were very, very well received, even with tears. I had not realised it was such a big issue. It is such a cruel thing to do to someone.
We had a training session on Mental Health on 26 July. This too seems to be a growing problem these days. Obviously we are not in a position to counsel folk on a long term basis. Indeed, we might only see them once, but we can point them in directions that hopefully will be able to help.
We have training with the Police on 2 August then a break until the end of September when “Youth Culture” is on the agenda. Believe me, the culture has changed an awful lot since I could call myself a youth, probably you too.