50% spike in Metro police incidents ‘a good thing’, say transport chiefs

The number of crime and anti-social behaviour incidents reported on the Metro shot up by more than 50% last year – but transport bosses insist that is “a good thing”.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 5th July 2019, 1:11 pm
Police at a Metro station

New figures reveal that there were 3,896 recorded police incidents on the Tyne and Wear rail network in 2018/19, up from just 2,561 the previous year.

However, Metro operator Nexus says that the spike is purely down to “more staff and more dedicated policing activity” on trains to tackle disorder.

The total incidents figure includes problems such as disorder, begging, and drunkenness for which nobody was arrested.

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Meanwhile, the number of actual crimes – including assaults, hate crimes, and theft – reduced by 10% to 989 last year.

Huw Lewis, Nexus customer services director, told councillors on Thursday that there had been a “new focus” on security since 2017, with a new Metro security manager appointed and increased staff patrols.

He said that an increase in incidents is “a good thing” because it comes from that more Metro staff and police patrolling the network and reporting issues that passengers might not have previously.

Mr Lewis told the North East Joint Transport Committee’s Tyne and Wear sub-committee: “They are confronting people who might not have a ticket, or might be drunk, or are begging.

“When the number of incidents goes up, that means people are being confronted and crimes are being prevented. That then filters though to the lower crime rate.”

The figure of 989 crimes equates to one every 109,000 Metro journeys and included 31 assaults on Metro staff, 219 assaults involving members of the public, 17 sexual offences, and 35 hate crimes.

Other incidents included 221 reports of drunkenness, four drugs offences and 83 begging reports.

Mr Lewis confirmed that more Metro staff will soon be fitted with bodycams, after a “really popular” trial that proved they are “fantastic for reducing conflict”.

Gateshead councillor John McElroy said that staff should be congratulated for their work, but that “there is more to be done” to improve public confidence in the Metro’s security.

He also urged Nexus bosses to hold an early meeting with the next Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, following the by-election to replace Vera Baird on July 18.

A Nexus report said: “While recorded crime is low, anti-social behaviour, such as people being drunk, shouting and swearing or hanging around stations, can lower people’s perceptions of personal safety and overall satisfaction with Metro.

“Many of the issues our staff must deal with reflect trends in society as whole, such as the impact of drug use, vagrancy and begging, and young people congregating in public spaces.”