‘Alarming’ rise in reports of sexual harassment on public transport

British Transport Police
British Transport Police

Reports of sexual harassment and sexual offences to British Transport Police (BTP) have risen by 63% compared with before the pandemic, new figures reveal.

Police have welcomed the increase as evidence that people understand such behaviour is unacceptable. However, the TSSA calls for greater action following the rise in reports.

Between April and October this year, BTP received 421 reports, up from 259 over the same period in 2019.

In London, there were 313 reports between April and October compared with 194 over the same period in 2019 – a 61% increase.

Police ‘working tirelessly’

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah White said: “Although normally an increase in reported crime is seen as negative, we welcome the increased reporting of sexual harassment.

“It tells us that more people are understanding that all types of this behaviour are unacceptable, and having the confidence to tell us about what’s happened to them.

“We are absolutely committed to reducing sexual offending on the rail network, and victims and survivors remain at the heart of our strategy.

“We are working tirelessly to deter and identify offenders, increase positive judicial outcomes, provide increased reporting mechanisms and engage with victims on how we can improve.

“This year we have almost tripled the number of officers who are specially trained to investigate sexual offences across England, Scotland and Wales. We also have covert, plain clothes officers who are trained in identifying suspects and gathering intelligence out across the network every day.

“We would urge anyone who has been a victim of any sexual offences or sexual harassment to report it to us in the confidence that we will extensively investigate and do everything possible support them.

“Each report we receive provides us with valuable information which we can use to build a picture of an offender. Often it allows us to notice a pattern of offending behaviour and then take action.”

Staffing cuts ‘counter-productive’

Transport Salaried Staffs Association organising director Lorraine Ward said: “These figures are shocking and should be a wake-up call to police and transport authorities across the country.

“Women in particular need to feel safe when using our public transport networks and these figures will be alarming to many.

“Transport staff need to be part of the solution to tackling all forms of crime on our transport networks.

“Staffing cuts at BTP and among station staff is counter-productive to safety and should be reversed.

“We’re calling on BTP, train operators and transport authorities – including Transport for London – to provide training and support for staff and to take action in real time to aid reporting and conviction rates.”

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