WATCH: Inverness street pastors collaborate with Police Scotland as they launch festive safety initiative Operation Respect
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
Inverness street pastors have joined forces with the police as they've launched their long-standing Operation Respect initiative aimed at keeping Inverness a safe place to live, work and visit over the festive season.
Operation Respect sees agencies and local voluntary partners pool together their wide ranging and varied skills to tackle street disorder, antisocial behaviour, retail crime and other forms of criminality.
Crucially, it is also designed to provide assistance to vulnerable people – whether that is a result of mental health concerns, alcohol or substance abuse – and provide a safe environment and the provision of pastoral care to those who are in needed.
This year a group of dedicated volunteer street pastors will work through the night in the hope of helping those either struggling with their mental health, or who are intoxicated by alcohol and need to find their way home safely.
Mark Hadfield, Inverness street pastor operational manager, said: "A group of around six of us will be out every Friday and Saturday night on the run up to Christmas from 10pm to 3am, but we will also be doing some daytime patrols during December as there are a lot of people out there during the day who are lonely and isolated who need someone to talk to or some help and we can sign post them to the services they need.
"During the nights out we will be wherever the people are and will be accessible to listen, care and help.
"We spend a lot of time listening and chatting as there is a lot of anxiety in the world right now with people worrying about a range of things."
He added: "Christmas can bring a lot of anxiety along with a lot of joy, so we are always there to chat and listen.
"In the party season and night time economy hours we offer various practical help, such as helping people find the taxi rank, staying warm or even to make a phone call. Anything more severe than that, we leave to the Medical Emergency Response Team, who are just fantastic.
"We are there to provide general care and social support."
The street pastors are also trained in topics as diverse as first aid; dependencies, whether that be alcohol, drugs or other substances; mental and emotional wellbeing; and safety in the night-time economy.
They work closely with other organisations, many of whom help deliver expect training.
Ross Tiffin, control coordinator, said: "We work with all the partner agencies, but our aim over the festive season is to keep people safe and feeling comfortable on the streets as well as help them when they're perhaps not in the position to help themselves.
"I think the festive season is a time for celebration for those who are out and having a good time, but its also a time of loneliness and isolation for some people.
"There's certainly no lack of need for the services we provide."
All of the organisations involved in Operation Respect will actively engage in proactive measures to ensure that the city is a safe place to be, whether you live and work in the city, a visiting group enjoying the hospitality, or simply a lone person walking home at night.
Participants in this year’s festive campaign are: Police Scotland, Highland Council, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS Highland, BID Inverness, Highland Third Sector Interface, Highland Drug & Alcohol Partnership, Street Pastors, Medical Emergency Response Team, Community Justice Partnership, Mikeysline, Trading Standards, and The Discovery College – Centered Scotland.