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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Railway crime rates 'on the rise'
Tube station
Pickpocketing on London Underground is down by 17.6%
Violent crime on the railways is on the rise, an annual report by British Transport Police (BTP) has found.

According to the study, theft has become less of a problem, but attacks on staff and acts of vandalism, such as graffiti, have seen a sharp increase.

In the 12 months to March 2004, 8,727 episodes of violent crime were reported - up 14% year on year.

The increase in criminal damage was 31.5%, with the overall incidence of graffiti on the Tube up by 75%.

Fighting vandalism

But a BTP spokesman said extra effort by police targeting graffiti could help to explain the apparent rise in that area.

Dealing with anti-social behaviour is a top government priority and we are helping to achieve that
British Transport Police

He told BBC News Online: "If you send police out into car parks, for instance, you find that there's a big rise in car crime because it gets reported: they find someone has broken into a car or something has been stolen from a car.

"Similarly, if you target graffiti, you get a lot more recorded crime."

With the overall number of thefts down, the overall rise in reported crime from April 2003-March 2004 was just 2.3%.

Physical attacks on railway workers have seen a sharp increase - possibly due to the fact that more assaults are being reported.

On London Underground, violence against staff accounts for a third of all reported assaults, which are up 29% on the previous year.

Reducing violence

BTP acknowledged that, while progress had been made in the fight against acts of vandalism, more needed to be done to protect both the public and members of staff.

"Dealing with anti-social behaviour is a top government priority and we are helping to achieve that, making our rail system more pleasant for the travelling public," said the BTP spokesman.

"This is being achieved through some excellent partnerships with the rail businesses," he added.

"Now... we are looking for the same success in reducing violence against passengers and staff."

News of an increase in violent crime comes as a new survey reveals that one in five adults fears for their personal safety while travelling by train.

A total of 38% of respondents named fear of personal assault as their biggest fear when taking the tube or a main line train, closely followed by the increased threat of terrorism, at 36%.

And almost three-quarters of adults said they would feel safer with a uniformed security guard travelling on the train, security company Group 4 Securicor found.

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