British Transport Police to scrap sex crime unit despite rise in reported offences

Structural reforms mean specialist units dealing with sex offences and violent crimes are to be disbanded

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The Independent Online

A specialist crime unit set up by the British Transport Police (BTP) to tackle sexual harassment on public transport will be disbanded despite a rise in reports of sex offences on trains and buses.

The specialist unit consists of a team of officers who actively search for sex offenders on London transport. 

But it will be axed as part of structural reforms by the BTP, which will also see the unit which deals with assaults against transport staff disbanded despite a persistent rise in violent assaults.

The units that cover theft of passengers’ property and bikes will remain.

“These teams will be retained due to the high volume of these crime types and the limited investigative opportunities they offer,” according to an internal BTP document seen by the Evening Standard. 

There were 1,603 reports of sex offences on London’s Tube, trains and buses between April and December last year, an increase of 43.5 per cent compared to the same period the previous year, which had 1,117 reported offences. 

A 2012 YouGov poll found 31 per cent of women aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual attention on public transport, along with 21 per cent of women aged 25-34. 

Several campaigns have been launched by the BTP to prevent sexual harassment and encourage victims to report it, including the Report it, Stop It campaign and Project Guardian, which may have helped to increase the number of reported offences.  

A statement from the British Transport Police said: “Tackling all forms of unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport is, and always will be, a priority for British Transport Police. 

"We will always put victims first and we are determined to deliver an investigative process that is evidence based. It is crucial that we provide a flexible, well-resourced and professional service, which provides victims of sexual offences with the very best chance of achieving a positive outcome from what is undoubtedly a traumatising experience.

"Our aim is to ensure that we deal effectively with those sexual offences that are reported to us and make the very best use of our resources and their expertise.

"That is why we are ensuring that the significant skills and experience accrued by the existing dedicated Sexual Offence Unit based in London, are captured, standardised and embedded as best practice across the whole new crime business structure at a national level, providing more resources and a consistent and more effective approach to tackling these offences.”

The BTP say they are currently in the middle of a national review of how sexual offences are tackled “to ensure that good practice and more resources are mobilised towards these investigations.”

Under the reform, sexual offences will be investigated by any of the 269 officers that are dedicated to crime nationally.