Collaborative crime management across trams

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 16

Much is said about crime prevention across the railways, but how do major light rail operators ensure tram networks are kept safe? Peter Cushing, Metrolink director, talks about the role of Greater Manchester’s collaborative TravelSafe Unit.

As Greater Manchester’s economy grows, so does the demand for a public transport network that provides passengers with an attractive way to travel – so it is essential that passenger safety is considered a key responsibility for every operator. 

The Metrolink network, owned and managed by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), currently covers nearly 58 miles and has 93 stops across seven lines – hosting 34 million passenger journeys every year. 

Levels of crime and anti-social behaviour on the network are low, especially when you consider the thousands of journeys that are made every day. 

However, it is the rightful expectation that each and every one of those passengers gets to their destination safely, and that customer service representatives working on the network can carry out their job free from crime or abuse. 

To help drive down the number of incidents even further, the Greater Manchester Travelsafe Unit (TSU) was established on 1 April 2015. Comprising a dedicated team of police constables, police community support officers, special constables and security personnel, the TSU patrols the region’s tram and bus networks tackling and deterring crime and anti-social behaviour. 

The story so far 

Measurable success has already been achieved. During the first year of operation, the TSU made 207 arrests, issued 11,077 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for ticketing offences and boarded 17,581 vehicles. That is twice as many arrests, three times as many FPNs and 3,500 more vehicles boarded than in the previous 12 months. 

Although the majority of the arrests are made in association with crimes not committed on the Metrolink network, the increased presence provided by the unit is making people feel safer. A survey of 2,500 people taken across the Metrolink and bus networks since 1 April 2015 showed that 86% did not fear crime when using public transport and that 94% had never been a victim of crime on public transport. 

Some of the arrests actually made on the network have been particularly notable. On 8 August 2015, a man was stopped at New Islington tram stop for travelling without a ticket. After failing to disclose his identity, a fingerprint reader showed him to be an offender wanted for multiple offences of burglary and recall to prison. The man, whose image had previously been circulated on BBC’s Crimewatch, was arrested and subsequently jailed. 

Overcoming co-ordination challenges 

The TSU was established to overcome a number of challenges faced by TfGM and its partners in being able to dedicate limited resources to deliver a centrally co-ordinated, dynamic function targeted at responding effectively to changing crime patterns, demands or major events. 

The challenges faced were compounded by the region’s rapidly expanding transport network with Metrolink, for example, opening four brand new lines since 2010. 

Led by TfGM and Greater Manchester Police, the TSU allows contributing operators – Metrolink RATP Dev Ltd, First Manchester and Stagecoach – to share intelligence, as well as crime and anti-social behaviour data. This partnership approach means resources can be more accurately deployed where needed and information on repeat offenders can be shared. 

Patrols are also deployed with body-worn cameras which, in conjunction with extensive public transport CCTV coverage, make it easier for the unit to gather evidence for prosecutions. Currently, there are cameras on all stops and trams that are constantly monitored by a control room. This means that, when the TSU is not patrolling an area, staff are actively monitoring the network, looking out for passenger safety and wellbeing. 

Focus is now also given to preventative measures and youth education. Uniformed officers regularly visit schools and ‘Crucial Crew’ events across the region to educate youngsters on the dangers, impacts and consequences of crime, anti-social behaviour and fare evasion on public transport. 

Moving forward, the success of the TSU’s first year has provided an impressive baseline for the future and has set the platform for ambitious proposals to almost double the size of the unit. I am delighted with what we have achieved and I think the expansion plans reflect just how much we prioritise passenger safety.



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