Street pastors and police officers out in force during Cheltenham Race Week
POLICE officers and pastors will be out in force in two weeks as racing fever hits Cheltenham.
Street pastors in Cheltenham are gearing up for the 2013 National Hunt Festival, when thousands of race goers are expected to flood the town's streets.
They will be supporting police operations, who are expected to put out more police officers during the week, which runs from March 12 to 15.
The Gold Cup will be held on the last day of the week, and extra patrols have been planned for March 14 and 15 by the street pastors.
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The crime reduction initiative sees trained volunteers from more than 20 local churches working the street to help late night revellers get home safely in early hours of the morning.
Backed by Gloucestershire Constabulary, Cheltenham town centre Inspector Tim Waterhouse said: "The pastors have been with us for three years now, and have become a valued part of the town.
"When the idea was first mooted, I was a little sceptical about the sustainability and a little concerned about them being abused and potentially assaulted.
"However, I couldn't have been more wrong. They are out in all weathers, smiling and offering help and assistance to anyone who needs it, such as giving out flip flops to the girls who can't bear the pain of fashion any longer or that bottle of water that helps with the rehydration process.
"Personally, I would like to add that I feel they bring a degree of normality and common sense to nights, which are sometimes devoid of those important aspects. Young men seem to behave around them, it's as if they don't want to misbehave in front of their granny."
Last year, the street pastors helped more than 3,000 people and gave out about 4,000 bottles of water. Foil blankets are also given out to those who are suffering from the cold weather.
Chairman of Cheltenham street pastors Nigel Bennett said he was delighted with the progress over the last three years.
He added: "Nearly 3,500 voluntary hours were given to patrolling in 2012 and we aim to significantly increase the number of street pastors and commence a second patrol on Saturday nights."
The group is appealing for volunteers.