Rising tide of crime on Blackpool's railway lines

Weapons, thefts and sexual offences are all among the rising tide of crime being reported on Blackpool railway.

Monday, 24th June 2019, 10:30 pm
British Transport Police at Blackpool Station

Among the hundreds of offences recorded across Lancashire, transport police are being called to the resort on a weekly basis after 50 per cent surge in incidents over the last two years.

But almost two thirds go unsolved, The Gazette can reveal.

Figures uncovered by the JPI Media Data Unit show how not a single suspect has ever faced justice for any of the 25 thefts on Blackpool’s railway since 2017.

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British Transport Police at Blackpool Station

Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail union RMT, said: “These are shocking statistics which show that on far too many occasions a criminal act on the railways is a free ride for the perpetrator.

“It’s a reflection of the under-resourcing of the British Transport Police and the drive to axe train and platform staff.

“The solution is investment in staffing and security and a zero tolerance approach that brings to book all those who think they can turn the railway into a criminal’s playground.”

Nationally, just one in ten thefts are solved by police, while half of sex offences go unpunished.

The number of crimes logged by British Transport Police rose by 30 per cent in the two years to 2018, with more than 66,000 offences on trains, tracks and stations last year.

And although officer numbers have risen slightly, the rate of unsolved cases has remained stubbornly high, at around 60 per cent, for the past three years.

In Blackpool last year, 51 crimes were reported to have taken place on trains and at train stations compared to just 34 in 2016 - with Blackpool North Station being a hotspot for criminal activity.

In 63 per cent of cases, no suspect was ever identified. And cases being dropped for a range of reasons – including uncooperative victims – meant just 18 per cent of investigations led to a suspect facing justice.

In 2017 and 2018, all reported thefts of passengers’ property on Blackpool trains went unsolved - a total of 25 thefts involving bikes, luggage, personal property and train station property.

In 2016, four thefts were reported, and only one was solved.

Across the whole of Britain, some 91 per cent of thefts of passenger property went unsolved - with cases either shelved because no suspect had been identified in England and Wales or logged as ‘undetected’ in Scotland.

In 2018, two sexual offences were reported at Blackpool North.

One of them - a report of sexual grooming at Blackpool on July 27 - resulted in a person being charged and summonsed to court.

The other involved a man seen committing a sexual act on August 30 and remains unsolved, with no suspects ever identified.

In 2016, one sexual offence involving a man committing a sexual act was reported on October 31. No suspect was ever identified.

While all three were reported at Blackpool North, many offences are recorded once the train reaches its final station, meaning the incidents could have happened en route.

There were no sexual offences reported on Blackpool trains in 2017.

The town shows more positive figures for outcomes of violent crime reports, which falls in line with statistics for the rest of the country.

Last year, six violent crimes were reported on Blackpool rails, and five of these were solved.

However, the investigation into a firearms offence at Blackpool North on August 21 was closed by police due to “evidential difficulties” despite officers identifying a suspect and the victim supporting the inquiry.

In 2017, 12 violent crimes were reported and 11 were solved, and in 2016 10 were reported and eight solved.

Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith, from British Transport Police, said crime on the railways remains “incredibly low”, with fewer than one journey in a million involving any kind of violence.

He said: “With such a rise in passenger journeys in recent years, we anticipated there to be a subsequent rise in crime.

“However, we are not complacent and have put in measures to tackle crime head-on. This includes dedicated proactive patrols to root out violence and knife crime, removing weapons from the streets and preventing people from coming to harm.

“We also conduct a great number of highly visible as well as plain clothes patrols to identify pickpockets, or those exploiting the crowded network to commit sexual offences.

“Fortunately, the majority of crimes reported to BTP result in no injury coming to a victim, such as theft, common assault or vandalism. Nevertheless, we understand these crimes are concerning for passengers, and I would like to reassure them that we are completely committed to reducing and preventing crime.”

Diana Fawcett, chief officer of the charity Victim Support, said: “People should feel safe going about their daily lives and confident that if they report a crime they will get the justice they deserve.

“In cases where a suspect is not identified it’s important that the reasons behind this are explained to the victim so they don’t just feel that their case has been dropped.

“This news has the potential to undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system and could deter people from coming forward to report a crime in the future.”