At 9pm on a Friday night StreetLight volunteers from churches around Horsham gather at Kingdom Faith Church in Foundry Lane, Roffey.
The group meets fortnightly currently, but wants to expand to meeting weekly in the near future. StreetLight is working closely with Sussex Police, the group is helping build a full picture of the prostitution that is going on behind closed doors.
They start with a debrief of the last session’s work when volunteers explain hotspots where they have carried out surveillance.
One mentions an area of the town where they think there is a brothel, others mention areas where girls are known to be dropped off by their manager or ‘pimp’.
Then, in small groups of at least three the StreetLight volunteers pray and talk about where they feel they should go that night.
At about 10.30pm the groups go to their agreed areas for a couple of hours while one group stays behind to pray and be a contact point for volunteers.
Groups of male volunteers also stay at the church to ring up known brothels or hotlines to produce a factfile of pick up and drop off points, venues and brothel rates, to better inform the police of the bigger picture of prostitution in the district.
The project leader, who did not want to be named, said: “We have been keen for men to come out to be good role models for the women.
“They play a really important role for us and we are building up strong teams.”
The County Times joined a group going to the town centre where the group patrolled the Carfax, East Street, West Street and the Forum.
As we walk around the town, the project leader speaks to taxi drivers, hands out cards to a hotel and various pubs and speaks to groups of girls to raise awareness of the group.
Pubs are now displaying StreetLight posters publicising the project’s work and in their yellow high visability jackets the volunteers are starting to be known by those working legitimately in Horsham’s night time economy.
People’s reactions to the initiative were of surprise, but also accepting that it is a problem which should be prevented from escalating.
When the groups head back to the the church just after midnight they have a debrief, during which volunteers can talk about any disturbing incidents and give updates to the group.
The group agrees do conduct more shifts after midnight in the future when nightlife is busier in the town.