When the Mid Ulster Mail was invited to join Cookstown Street Angels for a night on the town, we really didn’t know what to expect.
In recent weeks, reports of teen drinking and police operations in which sizable amounts of alcohol were confiscated, suggested Cookstown has a big problem.
But last Saturday night, this reporter was surprised to find there was very little going on in what is arguably Mid Ulster’s night-life capital.
Read more - Drunk teenage girls in Cookstown ‘unable to stand up’
Despite this, a nine-strong team of Street Angels were on hand to give out flip-flops and space blankets, clear the streets of potential weapons in the form of glass bottles and keep an eye on those who might prey on the vulnerable.
And they really seemed to fulfil a need - “bridging the gap between the police and the public” as one volunteer put it.
Born out of a desire to help the vulnerable, unwell or those who are unable to stand on their own two feet after partying a little too hard, they patrol the streets every weekend.
On Saturday night they were joined by around ten police officers and a well hidden 21-person Tactical Unit.
And aside from an argument in a pizza shop, a verbal exchange at the doors of a night club and a couple of men standing in the middle of the road on Molesworth Street - there was not much to report.
But the Street Angels worked on.
Edel, the team leader for Saturday night’s shift, described a typical night: “We lift glass bottles off the street to make sure they can’t be used as a weapon in the early hours.
We lift glass bottles off the street to make sure they can’t be used as a weapon in the early hours
“We normally have three groups of three or four - and if it’s a teenage disco we normally do round the town.
“A group of us would make sure we see all the buses and find out where they’re going and where they’re coming from so we can bring the young ones back to the right place if they are intoxicated.
“We check all the entries as well - as soon as they get off the buses and they’ve drink in them, they’ll go straight away down the entries and take the drink.
“We are the party poopers - but we know what state they’re going to be in later - they’re going to need our help.”
Trevor, who has been with the Street Angels since the beginning, said they have made such a positive impact that the police now enlist their help.
“We’ve had the police bring people to us as well because they haven’t done anything where they should be arrested, but they are concerned for their safety,” he said.
The outreach project, which was launched by Positive Steps Community Centre, now has 31 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 64.
“It all started around April 2013... there had been a number of incidents in the town - a number of rapes and a number of bad assaults,” Trevor added.
If you would like to volunteer call 02886 761020.