The number of sexual offences on Britain’s railways increased by 16% last year, new figures show.
The rise is part of a concerning trend, with the number of sexual offences rising by 167% in the last ten years, figures from the British Transport Police show.
The force believes that the number could actually be a lot more as many sexual offences go unreported.
The rise in the last year has contributed to an overall surge in the number of crimes recorded by the British Transport Police, which have increased in total by 17% in the same time period.
Between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, 61,159 crimes were recorded in England, Scotland and Wales, compared with 52,235 in 2016/17.
Violent crime, which has increased by 26%, also contributed to the surge.
Deputy Chief Constable Adrian Hanstock said that the rise in numbers of sexual offences could have partly be down to an increase in reporting thanks to a high profile campaign, called ‘Report It To Stop It’, which is aiming to increase passenger confidence in reporting sexual offences.
He said the campaign had led to an increase in reports, each of which they “take extremely seriously and investigate thoroughly”.
The report said: “Each offence reported to us can help to build a picture of an offender and can lead to their arrest and prosecution.
“We have continued to raise awareness of our approach to this type of criminality, so that more people will have the confidence to report what has happened to them and know we will take them seriously.”
He acknowledged that there has been an increase in the number of violent offences on the rail network.
Common assault had risen by 25% and serious assault by 21%. There were 134 more incidents of assaults on police.
“We know the impact violence has on victims and that is why we are committed to clamping down on these offences,” he said.
He pointed out that, overall, the chance of a passenger of becoming a victim of crime on the railway remains extremely low, with only 19 crimes recorded for every million journeys in 2017/18.
He said: “The last year has been a very challenging one for our officers, who responded to multiple terrorist attacks as well as intervening almost 2,000 times with vulnerable people on the network.
“Despite these challenges, it is reassuring to see that the chance of becoming a victim of crime the railway network remains incredibly low.”
Hanstock said that there has been a significant rise in the number of passenger journeys on the English, Scottish and Welsh railways in the past ten years.
In the last ten years, passenger journeys have increased by 828 million (35%), which means that BTP policed more than 3.2 billion individual journeys during 2017/18.
“With more people than ever travelling on the network, we fully expected to see a subsequent rise in crime in some areas,” he said.
He added that railway stations are also changing becoming entertainment and shopping venues in their own right.
“As a consequence the environment we police is becoming more varied and vibrant,” he said.
The figures were released as part of the BTP’s annual report, which also examined the performance of the force. It also reflected on the number of terrorist attacks taking place on or close to the railways or stations including Manchester Arena, Westminster, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green.
Chief Constable Paul Crowther said it had “arguably been the most challenging in our history, proving the threat of terrorism is real and present”.
He also praised officers “the courage and selflessness of officers
and staff” who had run towards danger to help others and save lives.