Page last updated at 07:04 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 08:04 UK

Bus drivers take saliva samples

Bus in London
TfL said crime on London buses was "low and getting lower"

Bus drivers have been given "spit kits" to help prosecute passengers who spit at them.

London bus drivers will use swabs to take samples of the saliva, which will be DNA-tested by a new police unit set up to combat attacks on bus drivers.

The kits are already used by Tube staff and helped prosecute about 100 people last year who assaulted them.

Transport for London (TfL) said bus drivers faced "far too much low-level abuse" from members of the public.

'Disgusting activity'

Last year more than 1,000 incidents of spitting were recorded on London buses, though not all were directed at drivers.

The "spit kits" contain swabs, rubber gloves and an evidence bag, which drivers will use to take samples and hand in to police stations.

They will then be DNA-tested by the new Metropolitan Police unit investigating workplace violence against bus drivers.

"Spit kits" are already used by bus drivers in areas including Nottingham, Cardiff, South Yorkshire and Glasgow.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "We have the finest bus drivers in the world in London and it saddens me that they may find themselves the victims of this disgusting activity.

"These kits will increase the likelihood of being able to track down perpetrators and sends them a clear message that this foul behaviour will not be tolerated."

Bus crime 'low'

TfL said crime on London buses was "low and getting lower". Bus-related crime fell by 11% last year, with youth crime on buses falling by 19% in the same period.

The number of serious assaults on bus drivers fell last year from 135 to 118, TfL added.

However the number of assaults not classified as serious, which included spitting at bus drivers, rose from 866 in 2006 to 998 last year.

Mr Johnson added: "We are determined to make public transport a safer place through measures such as the ban on passengers carrying open containers of alcohol, and I am aware that this will ask more of our drivers.

"However I hope they will agree that by providing support such as the new workplace violence unit we are fulfilling our pledge to protect them."

Last week the mayor announced that an extra 440 uniformed police staff would patrol major London bus stations to stamp out "minor crime".

Mayor unveils bus policing plan
16 May 08 |  London
Bus drivers given DNA swab kits
01 Sep 04 |  London

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