PASTORS are to patrol the streets of Waltham Forest at night to tackle crime.

The uniformed church members will attempt to engage with suspected gang members during regular walkabouts in the borough.

Similar projects in neighbouring London boroughs have been credited with helping to reduce anti-social behaviour and crime.

Waltham Forest Council and police are backing the project, which is set to launch in September.

Teams of four pastors will patrol crime hotspots between 10pm and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays, initially on a monthly basis.

Waltham Forest co-ordinator Bernard Aarons, a member of St Luke's Church in Walthamstow, denied pastors would be preaching to residents.

He said: “Our main aim is to help people and make sure they're safe.

“We will pray for people and answer questions on Christianity if they ask, but that's not what we're setting out to do.”

Mr Aarons has previously worked as a street pastor in Hackney and said the scheme had been a great success.

“When we first started there was scepticism from the police who thought we might be a vigilante group, but when they saw the results they began to support us.

“We have no powers to arrest people or anything like that and if a situation gets confrontational we back off.

“But the uniforms do have an impact.

“If there’s a group of people dealing drugs and they see us they usually will stop. They often aren’t quite sure who we are so to be on the safe side they stop what they’re doing.

“We had a case in Hackney recently where a woman who seemed to have had too much to drink was in distress at a bus stop.

“We helped her get home OK and we got an email from her later explaining her drink had been spiked and how we'd really helped.”

Mr Aarons said he was hopeful the patrols could be expanded to take place weekly if enough volunteers came forward, although only church-going Christians can apply.

Call Mr Aarons on 020 8521 3953 for more information.

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