Sex pest attacks help fuel rise in London transport crimes

Passengers sit on a Jubilee line underground train at Canning Town station  (PA)
Passengers sit on a Jubilee line underground train at Canning Town station (PA)

Crime rates on public transport in London are higher than before the pandemic — including an 81 per cent increase in sexual harassment of women and girls.

Latest figures from Transport for London show crime is up eight per cent on the pre-Covid average despite 21 per cent fewer passengers.

Police are appealing to businesses and bystanders to report sexual harassment of women and girls so that their evidence can help ban predators from the Tube, rail and bus network.

A total of 17,923 crimes on TfL services were recorded by police between April and September last year, up eight per cent on the 16,544 crimes averaged over the same period in the three years up to and including 2019.

There was also an 81 per cent year-on-year increase in sexual harassment incidents reported by women to police, though this was attributed to a campaign encouraging victims to come forward.

The chance of being a victim of crime has increased from 8.3 offences per million journeys to 11.5 per million journeys, according to TfL’s six-month crime and anti-social behaviour report.

On the buses, there were 9,237 crimes recorded — a 20 per cent increase on the pre-pandemic average of 7,697 crimes. Violent attacks were up 18 per cent to 3,467 incidents.

There were 476 sexual offences on the buses. Victims were overwhelmingly female, and generally aged 12 to 30 years — with a “substantial peak for school-aged girls aged 12 to 18”.

A total of 937 robberies were reported on the buses — a 57 per cent jump. Boys and men aged 12 to 19 were most at risk.

A report presented to TfL’s customer services panel in December said the “peak time” for bus crime was 3pm to 6pm on weekdays, showing how secondary school pupils are often among the victims.

Croydon, Enfield and Lambeth were the worst three boroughs for bus robberies.

On the Tube, overall crime levels were down six per cent to 6,873 incidents, compared with a pre-pandemic average of 7,291. But because the number of passengers was 26 per cent down, the overall crime rate on the Underground rose — from 10.7 per million journeys to 13.6.

Robbery was a “concern” and was up 70 per cent to 165 incidents. Violence against the person or serious public disorder fell by more than 200 incidents to 2,303.

TfL said half of robberies were committed on Tube trains, 23 per cent on platforms and seven per cent at the station doors.  The worst three stations were Seven Sisters, Stratford and King’s Cross/St Pancras.

Sexual offences on the Tube fell from an average of 572 to 433 over the six-month period.

TfL said women in their teens and twenties were reporting more harassment incidents to police, while men were more likely to be the victims of attacks that caused injury.

In October last year, TfL launched a TV, social media and poster campaign to tackle sexual harassment – including encouraging bystanders who witness incidents to report it.

Between October 2021 and September 2022, there were 2,361 harassment offences on the TfL network reported to the police. This compares to 1,302 reported in the same period the year before, an 81 per cent increase.

Last month the Government announced plans to jail perpetrators of sexual harassment in public for up to two years.

Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Furnell, of British Transport Police, said victims could now report sexual harassment anonymously, while bystanders were encouraged to report incidents via the national Railway Guardian app.

“From a policing perspective, the fact we have this anonymous reporting gives us the ability to try and track down that offender,” he said.

“We can ban them from the railway and therefore protect the travelling public.

“We will be building on the bystander intervention campaigns in the New Year – seeking to ask businesses and others to engage with us in reporting what they are seeing, and not leaving it all down to the individual who has been subjected to that harassment.

“Why is that important? From a policing perspective, it’s difficult to police our way through a real lack of confidence in policing to report these offences. It’s difficult for us to police our way through to a prosecution when many people don’t wish to pursue a prosecution.

“I would suggest it’s everybody’s business to tackle sexual harassment and offences and violence against women and girls.”

Last week TfL launched its annual safer travel at night campaign, urging Londoners to avoid unbooked minicabs and promising a crackdown on illegal operators over the festive period.

The crime report revealed there were 514 crimes reported on the Elizabeth line, 761 on London Overground, 423 on the DLR and 115 on the Croydon tram.

There were 360 “motor vehicle/cycle offences”, the majority of which were the theft of bikes from bike racks or storage areas at stations.

A TfL passenger survey found that 32 per cent of respondents felt worried on public transport in the past three months, while six per cent were completely or temporarily deterred from using public transport due to a worrying incident.

The most commonly cited incidents on the bus network included threatening behaviour of other passengers, youth-related anti-social behaviour and drunkenness.

On the Tube, passengers were most concerned with drunkenness, overcrowding and threatening behaviour of other passengers.