Railways sex offences rise by 21%

British Transport Police Image copyright PA
Image caption 'Notifiable crimes' fell by 5.7% overall

The number of sexual offences reported on the UK's railways has risen by a fifth in a year, according to the British Transport Police.

The force said 1,117 sexual offences were recorded in 2013/2014 - a 21% increase on the 925 the previous year.

It is running a project to reduce unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport, and says its first stage was to encourage victims to report crimes.

Overall, "notifiable" crimes fell by 5.7% - from 53,885 to 50,840.

'Increasing awareness'

Sexual crimes against females rose from 485 to 624 while those against males rose from 27 to 42, BTP said.

Indecent exposure cases increased from 141 to 148 while "other sexual offences" went up from 272 to 303.

BTP Chief Constable Paul Crowther hailed the force's Project Guardian for encouraging people to report sexual crimes.

Project Guardian focused on "increasing awareness and confidence among the public to report unwanted sexual behaviour to the police or members of staff", he said.

"We are particularly interested in those offences which are often unreported, such as sexual assault, exposure, outraging public decency, lewd comments and harassment."

The overall BTP crime figures, which include those for London Underground and the capital's Docklands Light Railway, are for the more serious "notifiable" offences.

They exclude offences such as drunk and disorderly, and breach of the peace.

50% drop

Cases of violence against the person rose from 8,123 in 2012/13 to 8,425 in 2013/14.

On London Underground and Docklands Light Railway, there was a rise of 9.5% - from 1,897 to 2,077 - in violence against the person crimes.

There was a slight rise in bicycle crime.

And there was a drop of 17% - from 17,292 to 14,353 - in reported theft of passenger property.

Fraud offences fell by more than 50% - from 920 to 457.

Michael Roberts, director general of rail industry body the Rail Delivery Group, said it was "good news for passengers that the overall crime rate has fallen for the 10th 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," she said.

Mick Cash, acting general secretary of the RMT transport union, meanwhile, said: "These are truly shocking figures which just illustrate the complacency over the safety of the travelling public which is endemic amongst the train companies, the regulators and the politicians.

"The 20% increase in sexual offences on the railways should force an immediate halt to the ongoing programme to remove guards from our trains and the government-endorsed plans to close ticket offices and de-staff stations.

"Clearly we need more staff in public view, across the network, to deter the criminals and halt this appalling surge in attacks on women.

"The 10% increase in violence on LU and the DLR should also serve as a wake-up call to London Mayor Boris Johnson who is ploughing ahead with his own plans to remove station and platform staff and close ticket offices."

In June, Transport for London said figures from BTP and the Met Police showed overall crime for 2013/2014 was down 11% from the previous year.

"The safety and security of customers is our top priority - working with our policing partners across London, our transport network continues to be a safe, low crime environment, with crime levels at their lowest ever level," a spokesperson said at the time.

They added: "We want all users of our services to travel safely and with confidence and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the network remains a safe and low crime environment."

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