News – TSSA – ‘Alarming’ increase in reports of sexual harassment on public transport must be addressed

Transport and travel union TSSA says greater action is needed following an “alarming” rise in reports of sexual harassment across public transport networks.

It says staffing cuts at British Transport Police (BTP) and among station staff has proved “counter-productive” to women’s safety.

Latest statistics from BTP show that reports of sexual harassment and sexual offences on public transport have increased by 63 per cent compared with pre-pandemic figures.

BTP received 421 reports of harassment between April and October, 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 per cent increase.

High profile cases of violence against women and girls – including the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard – are suggested to be partly behind the increase in reports of incidents of sexual harassment as women come forward to report crimes.

BTP said it believes the increase in reports is due to passengers having more confidence to report incidents.

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.”

She said each report provides vital information and shows more people understand that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

BTP say it has almost tripled the number of officers who are specially trained to investigate sexual offences across England, Scotland and Wales, and also has covert, plain clothes officers who are trained in identifying suspects and gathering intelligence across the public transport network.

However, TSSA 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.”

TSSA represents staff working at BTP and across rail and public transport operators.

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