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Crime on the railways falls for tenth successive year

There has been a 6% fall in the number of victims of serious offences dealt with by the British Transport Police (BTP), writes Alexandra Clarke.

During 2013-14, compared with the previous year, there were 18% fewer recorded robberies, a 17% drop in theft of passenger property and a 37% fall in cable theft from the railway. There were 3,000 fewer ‘notifiable crimes’ overall – the more serious dealt with by the force.

The BTP has credited a lot of this success to its targeted initiatives and those run by rail companies and other partners.

BTP Chief Constable Paul Crowther said: “The initiatives and operations that have made such an impact during the past 12 months really highlight the advantage our specialist knowledge brings to the railway.

“By working with the rail companies and passengers, we are able to truly understand the challenges they face and devise innovative solutions to tackle those problems.”

In 2012 there was a growing concern among passengers and train operators about the theft of passenger property, with trains and stations seemingly offering ‘easy pickings’ for thieves.

As a result of this, Operation Magnum was launched – an awareness campaign based around the knowledge and experience of rail officers and staff to advise passengers about the most common tactics used by thieves, and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of the methods.

The BTP says the results were ‘remarkable’. With a campaign driven by online content and social media, almost 3,000 fewer people were falling victim to this type of crime year-on-year, creating the desired effect.

Chief Constable Crowther added: “During 2013-14 we also continued to spearhead efforts to tackle metal and cable theft both on the railway, and in other sectors, through the National Metal Theft Taskforce – bringing about a 37% fall in railway cable theft which, in turn, significantly reduced the delays and disruption faced by the railway as a result of criminal activity.”

This was achieved by specialist knowledge and officers’ close understanding, which helped to tackle crime and push for a change in legislation. The new Scrap Metal Dealers Act was created with the help of the industry and the government, levelling the playing field for legitimate scrap metal recyclers.

However, some crimes have been rising. Sexual offences recorded by the BTP have increased by 21% year-on-year.

This increase is slightly higher than that experienced by police forces nationally. Many believe the reason for this rise however is due to the higher profile of celebrity prosecutions for historical sex charges, which has given victims more confidence in some cases to come forward.

In response to this rise, the BTP-led the Project Guardian initiative had a significant impact.

Chief Constable Crowther said: “Project Guardian, a joint initiative between BTP, Metropolitan Police Service Safer Transport Command (STC), City of London Police and Transport for London (TfL), focuses on increasing awareness and confidence amongst the public to report unwanted sexual behaviour to the police or members of staff. We are particularly interested in those offences which are often unreported, such as sexual assault, exposure, outraging public decency, lewd comments and harassment.”

In the next 12 months and beyond, the BTP aims to build on these successes and innovations to try to decrease the already low crime rate even further, creating a safer environment for both passengers and staff on the railway.

Chief Constable Crowther, who was appointed in May this year, said: “For the coming months and years we will have one simple goal – to make sure everyone who travels or works on the railway can get home every day, safe, secure and on time.

“The rail industry is growing at an exponential rate and, as a police force designed with specialism at our core – we are the world’s only national force dedicated to the railways – it is vital that we able to adapt to meet the challenges this brings.”

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, representing operators and Network Rail, said: “It’s good news for passengers that the overall crime rate has fallen for the tenth successive year. The rise in some crimes, however, remains a concern, which is why the industry will continue to work closely with the police to prosecute offenders.

“The safety and security of passengers and staff is taken extremely seriously and millions of pounds have been spent funding the BTP, improving CCTV at stations and hiring additional security to keep people safe.”

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