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London Assembly committee flags up concerns over policing a 24-hour transport system

Crime on Night Tube will need to be 'robustly monitored'

Mark Moran
10 March 2016
London`s transport system runs around the clock
London`s transport system runs around the clock


The operation of the new Night Tube service will have to be robustly monitored to ensure crime and fear of crime does not threaten or deter people, especially women and minorities, advises the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee

The Crime on public transport report assesses crime levels on the capital’s public transport system and identifies current and future policing challenges, including the introduction of the Night Tube, fear of crime on the network and an increase in reports of violence. 

The committee recommends that new Mayor of London should constantly monitor, review and learn from policing arrangements for the Night Tube, and enable a swift response to any emerging crime concerns.

The committee recommends that new mayor should also explore how to further increase public awareness and confidence to report sexual offences on public transport, maximising on the success of ‘Project Guardian’. The next mayor should also develop a new strategy for enabling travellers to report all crimes and anti-social behaviour more easily on public transport in London, using mechanisms that have shown success, such as by text.

Joanne McCartney AM, chair of the Police and Crime Committee, said: “London has one of the largest public transport systems in the world, carrying around ten million passengers every day. Looking at the figures, recorded crime on public transport is relatively low, but the network faces a number of key challenges, which mean that complacency is not an option for the incoming mayor. How will police and TfL maintain the safety of Londoners on a 24-hour tube service? How can the fear of crime be reversed? What policing measures will come into play to manage the network’s growing passenger numbers?

“The committee calls on the next mayor to address these issues early in order to maximise the positive work to date by Transport for London (TfL) and London’s policing agencies. With passenger numbers expected to rise, taking swift action and even pre-empting problems, particularly around the introduction of the Night Tube, will help ensure our transport network - the lifeblood of the capital – continues to serve Londoners.”

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee report Crime on Public Transport can be downloaded by clicking here

The report reflects that the overall number of reported crimes across TfL’s public transport network is on a downward trend (8% lower in 2014-15 than in 2013-14), while the risk of being a victim of crime is also down (the rate of crime per million passenger journeys decreased by 10% in 2014-15). There were 1,029 fewer crimes on buses in 2014-15 than the previous year. However, the report notes violent assaults and sexual offences increased; this pattern is reflected across TfL’s network, and London, as a whole.

“The overall number of crimes across TfL’s public transport network is on a downward trend, and the risk of being a victim of crime is also down,” it states. “However, a rise in violence against the person and sexual offences is a challenge.”

The committee says that fear of crime on public transport can prevent people from using the public transport system. “While there is no direct correlation between reported crime levels and fear of crime, passengers often perceive their risk of crime to be higher than official crime statistics indicate, and reducing actual levels of crime may not lead to a reduction in people’s perception of crime risk,” the committee writes. “However, under-reporting masks the full extent of crime on the public transport system and anti-social behaviour, which is rarely reported, can also act as a deterrent to travel for some.”

The report welcomes Project Guardian, which was introduced in 2013 by the Met, TfL, British Transport Police (BTP) and City of London to challenge unwanted sexual behaviour, increase confidence in reporting and target offenders on the network. Efforts to tackle under-reporting of sexual offences appear to be working. “Project Guardian has had a big impact on improving reports and more victims are now more willing to report their experience; the issue isn’t getting bigger, it is now better reported,” says the committee.

“Project Guardian has received positive feedback, and both public and political support. But it is now time to move it forward. As well as continuing to develop Project Guardian to further tackle unwanted sexual behaviour, there are lessons here that could be applied to other crimes across the public transport network.” 

The report addresses the demands policing a 24 transport system, which currently encompasses buses, taxis and private hire vehicles and is set to include the Night Tube service. The committee notes that bus journeys are expected to increase in excess of 7% by 2021, and the Night Tube, Crossrail and London Overground extensions will potentially create new demand. The importance of the night-time economy is also growing, which brings with it its own policing challenges.

“The taxi and private hire trades are important to London’s public transport network,” writes the committee. “However, the potential for passengers to become the victims of crime remains a longstanding concern.” 

The committee says it has heard that cab-related sexual offences are both under-reported and remain a concern for passengers, TfL and the police. “Taking an unlicensed minicab remains the greatest risk of becoming a victim of cab-related sexual offences, yet TfL has found that 32% of women claim they are likely to use unlicensed minicabs in the future. This is a concern and there is a need for further work to highlight the dangers of using unlicensed minicabs in London,” its report states. 

The committee notes that the overall growth in licensed private hire vehicles has created a challenge for routine enforcement and compliance activity, and there is a need for more visible and immediate enforcement to deter criminal activity on the streets. “Harsher penalties are needed, and magistrate courts need to treat touting and plying for hire with the severity of a serious crime that puts public safety at risk,” advises the committee. “TfL and the police need increased enforcement powers to ensure stronger sanctions for touting, including seizure of vehicles, and the new Mayor needs to lobby the Ministry of Justice on this.”

TfL has been working closely with BTP and the Met on planning for the introduction of Night Tube. The committee says that its investigation heard that the current assessment of the impact of the Night Tube on crime and disorder is positive. However, the report draws attention to a TfL internal risk assessment that stated that sexual offences and other crimes are likely to increase when the Night Tube is introduced. The same TfL assessment also recognised the potential for increased unlawful activity by taxi touts and unlicensed private hire at the end of the line.

The committee noted: “Despite these concerns, BTP is confident that robust analysis has been carried out to ensure the Tube remains safe for passengers and staff, but it will be difficult to be sure until it is up and running.”

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