Street Angels: Watching over students this Christmas

IT’S a typical Friday night in Middlesbrough Town Centre.

Brimming with students letting their hair down after a hard week of studying, the high street is lively, the drinks are flowing and it’s not long before it all gets a bit out of hand.

Research shows that around half of students drink more than The Government’s daily unit guidelines, and alcohol consumption in Britain increases by 40% at Christmas time, but a charity is on hand to help out students who have put themselves in danger with drink.

Street Angels work the streets of Middlesbrough every weekend making sure students and young people get home safe. And with Christmas on the way, Street Angels are looking to recruit extra help to make this possible.

Paul Blakey MBE, founder of Street Angels, said: “People don’t understand why we do it, but the people we help are somebody’s son or daughter.

“They could have been having a hard time and have turned to drink; they might have even had their drink spiked. You just don’t know the story behind them. We don’t judge, we just want to help.”
Paul envisioned the idea of Street Angels back in 2005. His own town centre, Halifax, had become a no go area once the sun went down. Regular sexual assaults, GBH and other violent crimes were taking over the city.

With authorities struggling to tackle the problem, Paul decided to take a different approach.

After discussing his innovative idea with police, Street Angels was set up in just two weeks, and has been growing ever since.

He and Street Angels across the country patrol the most popular night life spots. They assist those in need by providing first aid, water and blankets, or just a shoulder to cry on.

Their presence is vital in crime prevention. According to Steve Brock, Project Manager for Stockton Street Angels, Stockton town centre has seen a 23% reduction in crime since the charity was set up.

Paul added: “Our job is to make sure everybody gets home safely. No matter how intoxicated a person gets, in no way do they ask to be a victim of crime. An assault can scar a person for life.”

The North East has the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions. Alcohol-related crime in Middlesbrough is also double the regional average. With statistics like these, Street Angels’ work is proving invaluable.

The British Crime Survey 2008 revealed that students have the highest risk of being a victim of violent crime, often when drunk.

On average, 136 alcohol fuelled crimes are committed each month in Middlesbrough.

Paul believes that an encounter with Street Angels can help people realise the importance of staying safe.

He said: “I think it can shock people when they wake up in the morning and realise that they were that drunk they needed our help just to get them back home.

“It can make them think about what could have happened if it wasn’t for us. We don’t want an assault, attack or arrest to make them realise that they are drinking too much.”

Street Angels has been proven to improve town centres all over the country, and not just during the night.

In more dangerous night life spots, people were reluctant to set up business in the fear that their property could be vandalised once the bars opened and the partying started.

Street Angels now work in over 120 towns and cities across the UK, offering help to anybody who finds themselves vulnerable at night.

Paul’s work has made such a difference to communities, that he was put forward for an MBE back in 2009.

He said: “The recognition of the award is not just for me but for every volunteer who goes out on a weekend evening to make our country a safer and nicer place.

“It was a great day at Buckingham Palace and I even made the Queen laugh by inviting her to join us in a yellow jacket one Saturday night!”

Paul offers his advice for students hoping to party and stay safe this Christmas, he said: “Pick a venue right for you – if you feel out of place, leave! Most fights start over something minor – someone knock you, spill your drink – apologise!

“Know what you are drinking so you can know how much you have had. This will also help you and your friends know if you have been spiked because you have kept account of your alcohol intake.”

“With more people out and about there is always increased risk – so keep aware of your surroundings and who is around. We want you to have a fun and safe night!”

You can find out more about Street Angels, how to volunteer and about the Christian Nightlife Initiative Network through visiting their website:

He added: “All we ask of anyone who wants to volunteer is for them to have compassion and to not make a judgement.”

Street Angels rely on donations to keep their valuable service running throughout your town. You can donate by texting DUCK22 and your chosen amount of money to 70070.





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