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Paper 20th October 2005 - TTSAC(05)1

T&TSAC(05)1 - CRIME ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT

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Introduction

1. At its meeting on 29 November 2004, the Committee discussed possible needs for statistics about the occurrence of crime on public transport and/or about perceptions/fear of crime on public transport (see the extract from the minutes in the Annex).

2. This paper describes briefly the kinds of information which are currently collected, or which are about to be collected. The main points to note are:

  • figures for crimes on public transport
  • are not available from the Recorded Crime statistics returns (see para 4);
  • might be obtained from Police Forces' systems - but it might not be easy for Police Forces across Scotland to provide figures on a consistent basis (para 5);
  • the British Transport Police could (in theory) provide information about the numbers of offences of various types on the railways in Scotland (para 6);
  • estimates of the number of crimes on public transport which affect adults will become available from the Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS), following the inclusion of a new question w.e.f. April 2005 (paras 7 to 9);
  • information for England and Wales will become available from the British Crime Survey (which does not cover Scotland) (para 10);
  • little information is available from the Department for Transport (DfT) survey of some large bus operators across Great Britain (para 11).
  • statistics about perceptions / fear of crime
  • the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) asks about adults' feelings of safety from crime when travelling by bus and by train in the evenings, and asks users of buses and trains whether they feel safe and secure on the bus/train (paras 12 to 14);
  • the British Crime Survey will provide some information for England and Wales (para 15);
  • the Scottish and English Bus Passenger Satisfaction Surveys ask about safety at the bus stop, and safety on the bus, in respect of a journey which the passenger recently made, or has just made (paras 16 to 17);
  • in Scotland, the Public Perceptions of Travel Awareness Survey asks respondents to rate the bus service in their local area in terms of personal safety (para 18);
  • the ONS "omnibus" survey provides some results for GB as a whole - but the sample is too small to provide figures for Scotland (para 19).

3. As (i) the SCVS's new question will provide an estimate of the total number of crimes on public transport, (ii) the SHS provides information about perceptions / fear of crime, and (iii) DfT is proposing to change its GB-wide survey of large bus operators to collect better information (which might or might not enable it to provide separate figures for Scotland every three years), it appears that:

  • there is no need, at present, for the Scottish Executive to consider any other ways of collecting information about crime on public transport in Scotland; and
  • when the Recorded Crime statistics returns are next reviewed, the Crime Statistics branch should consider the possibility of identifying crimes on public transport in the returns (which would probably require a major change to the returns).

Information about the occurrence of crime on public transport

Information recorded by the Police

4. Crimes occurring on public transport are not identified separately in the Recorded Crime statistics returns which are made to the Justice Department. For example, the statistical information about, say, an assault does not include any indication of the "type of location" at which it took place, so one cannot identify crimes which took place (e.g.) on public transport or in shopping centres. In recent years, the Crime Statistics branch has received only a couple of requests for such information, so there has not been a strong case for amending the Recorded Crime returns to collect it - which would probably require a major change to the returns. At present, they are aggregate returns, which collect only the total numbers of crimes of various types in each area. The Crime Statistician's view is that an individual return for each crime would be needed to collect more detailed information (such as whether crimes occurred on public transport). This would clearly be a major change, and have considerable implications for the Police Forces who supply the information. The possibility is something which can be considered when the Recorded Crime statistical returns are next reviewed.

5. The information included in the Recorded Crime statistics aggregate returns is not as detailed as that held in Police Forces' crime reporting systems. Police Forces may be able to identify "public transport" crimes using the information held in their own databases. The Lothian & Borders Police (L&BP) crime reporting system includes a "Transport" category, which has sub-categories such as "bus", "minibus" and "bus stop". Provided that the reporting officers and data input staff classify reported crimes correctly (which may not always be the case), the L&BP public transport liaision officer can pick out those which occurred on, or were related to, buses. In 2004, there were almost 700, of which over half were "malicious mischief" (vandalism or malicious damage which did not result in injury to anyone), about a fifth were "theft", roughly a seventh were "minor assault", and all other types, taken together, accounted for around a tenth. L&B has a little under a fifth of the population of Scotland - so, if it were typical of Scotland as a whole, that would suggest a total of about 4,000 "bus-related" crimes per year in Scotland. However, there may be differences between Police Force areas in the ways in which incidents are reported (or are not reported). For example, very few cases of bus shelter vandalism are recorded in the L&BP system, because (it seems) the company responsible for the shelters does not consider it worthwhile to report the damage to the Police. Similarly, local bus companies may only report graffiti to the Police if their CCTV systems clearly show the culprits. There may also be differences between Police Force areas in the ways in which certain types of incident are classified (e.g. are school bus services which are not available to the public counted as "public transport"?). The resources available for public transport liaison vary between Police Force areas, which may have implications for operators' reporting of, and Police Forces' classification and identification of, public transport-related crimes. So it might not be a simple matter for Police Forces to provide statistics of public transport-related crimes on a consistent basis across Scotland

Information recorded by the British Transport Police

6. The British Transport Police record details of crimes committed on the railways, so could (in theory) provide figures for Scotland that are equivalent to those which appeared in Table 5.7 of DfT's Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2003 edition. This shows the numbers of offences of various types (e.g. "murder", "theft of luggage", "ticket fraud", "possession of controlled drugs", etc - almost 50 categories) which were (a) reported and (b) cleared.

Information reported by adults who were victims

7. The Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey collects data using telephone interviews with over 27,000 adults across Scotland per year. The interviewer records the nature of each crime or type of victimisation reported in the interview (e.g. "threats", "theft from person", "serious assault", etc), and asks where it took place. In the interviews conducted in 2004-05, one of the categories was as follows:

while travelling or near transport facilities (e.g. at station, bus stop)

Results from the survey for 2004-05 are expected to become available in Autumn 2005.

8. As a consequence of the interest in statistics about crime on public transport expressed by members of the Committee, the questionnaire will be amended with effect from April 2005. When an answer like the previous paragraph's is given, the interviewer will (if necessary) ask for more information, and classify the type of transport / location into one of the following categories:

  1. ...while driving or travelling in a private car/van
  2. ...on a bus
  3. ...at a bus stop / bus station
  4. ...on a train
  5. ...at a railway station
  6. ...on an underground / subway train
  7. ...at an underground / subway station
  8. …in a taxi
  9. …at a taxi rank
  10. ...on a plane
  11. ...at an airport
  12. …on a ferry
  13. …at a ferry terminal
  14. ...while cycling
  15. ...or while you were travelling using another kind of transport, or near some other kind of transport facilities?

Results for 2005-06 are expected to become available in October 2006.

9. The Justice Department will use the SCVS data to estimate the total numbers of incidents of each type of crime or victimisation which were experienced by adults in Scotland in a year. The new question will provide a means of identifying the number of crimes or incidents of victimisation experienced by adults on public transport in Scotland each year, with effect from the 2005-06 financial year.

10. The British Crime Survey (despite its name, this survey does not cover Scotland) will provide some information for England and Wales. The survey included some questions on transport-related crime (and also about the fear of crime) during the 2004/05 financial year. DfT intends to publish the results, which will be based a sample of about 12,000 adults, later this year, in its Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2005 edition. Information about trends in England and Wales could be obtained if such questions were included in the survey in later years. (They will not be asked in the 2005/06 financial year. DfT hopes that they will repeated in future years, but there is no guarantee of this, as they are competing with questions on other topics for space in the survey.)

Information reported by bus operators

11. DfT surveys bus operators to obtain information about assaults on staff and vandalism of vehicles. About 100 large operators across Great Britain are asked to provide information, such as (for assaults) the time of day, day of week and cause (e.g. "fares dispute", "robbery", etc) and (for vandalism) the types of damage (e.g. to windows, to seats) and costs. The response rate is poor. DfT published only some percentage breakdown of the "assault" figures for "London" and "GB outside London" in Charts 5.1 to 5.6 of its Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2003 edition because it did not think that the data were good enough to provide an estimate of the total number of assaults. DfT notes that the repair costs for bus stops and timetable display units are under-reported in this survey, because local authorities rather than bus operators are generally responsible for such facilities. In the hope of collecting better quality data, and at the same time reducing the burden on operators, DfT proposes to reduce the frequency of the survey (so that it is conducted only every third year), and to make a special effort to achieve a much better response rate in those years in which the survey is run. It remains to be seen whether DfT will be able to produce separate figures for Scotland from the triennial survey.

Information about perceptions / fear of crime on public transport

The Scottish Household Survey

12. The SHS asks roughly 15,000 adults per year about their frequency of travel by bus in the evening, how safe from crime they feel (or would feel) when travelling by bus in the evenings, and similar questions about travelling by train. The Scottish Executive publishes the results for buses each year in its Bus and Coach Statistics bulletin (e.g. Table 25 of the "2003-04" edition), and publishes the results for trains (along with the results for buses) from time to time in its Household Transport bulletin (e.g. Tables 7 and 9 of the "2001" edition).

13. The SHS interviewer also asks each user of local bus services for his/her views on several aspects of the services, one of which is whether he/she "personally feels safe and secure on the bus", and likewise for users of train services. The results for buses are published in Bus and Coach Statistics (e.g. Table 15 of the "2003-04" edition) and the results for both buses and trains are published in Household Transport (e.g. Table 11 of the "2003" edition).

14. Information about perceptions / fear of crime on public transport could also be collected by some of the other SHS questions, such as those asking about the person's reasons for not using buses more often, and car commuters' reasons for not using public transport for travelling to work. However, in practice, "fear of crime" is not given in answer to such questions sufficiently often for it to appear as a separate category in the SHS's results.

The British Crime Survey

15. As noted earlier, during the 2004/05 financial year, the survey (which covers only England and Wales) included some questions on fear of crime (and also transport-related crime). DfT intends to publish the results later this year. Information about trends could become available, if the questions were repeated in future years (NB: they will not be asked in 2005/06, and there is no guarantee that they will be repeated in later years).

The Scottish Bus Passenger Satisfaction Survey

16. This is a telephone survey of around 1,800 bus users across Scotland per year. Respondents are asked to state their level of satisfaction with various aspects of a particular bus journey which they have recently made (using a scale from 1 for "very satisfied" to 5 for "very dis-satisfied"). Two of the aspects which are rated are "safety at bus stop" and "personal safety on bus". Respondents are also asked what discourages them from using buses more often: about 1% answer "don't feel safe on bus". The Scottish Executive publishes the results in its Bus Passenger Satisfaction Survey Research Findings.

The English Bus Passenger Satisfaction Survey

17. The DfT survey covers a sample of passengers alighting from buses at about 550 points across England. It asks them to rate their satisfaction with various aspects of the journey which they have just completed (using a scale from 0 for "extremely dissatisfied" to 10 for "extremely satisfied"). Two of the aspects which are rated are "bus stop/shelter condition: safety and security" and "on bus safety and security". DfT publishes the results in (e.g.) Table 1.1 of its Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2004 edition.

The Public Perceptions of Travel Awareness Survey

18. This household survey has been conducted on behalf of the Scottish Executive in Spring 2001, Winter 2002/2003 and Winter 2004. About 1,000 adults across Scotland are interviewed in each wave. One of the questions asks respondents to rate bus service in their local area in terms of "personal safety", on a scale from "very good" to "very poor": in each wave, around 10% answered "fairly poor" or "very poor".

The Office for National Statistics "omnibus" survey

19. In 2003, the ONS "omnibus" survey asked around 1,800 adults across Great Britain whether they were afraid of becoming a crime victim if they used the bus, whether fear of crime prevented them from using buses as much as they would like, what would help them feel safer from crime when travelling by bus, and similar questions in respect of trains. DfT published the results in Charts 3.10 to 3.15 of its Bulletin of Public Transport Statistics Great Britain: 2004 edition and also in its Bus Quality Indicators bulletins. The sample of 1,800 across GB as a whole is not large enough to provide separate results for Scotland.

Annex - Extract from the minutes of the T&TSAC meeting of 29 November 2004

3.6.1 Crimes on public transport. In current crime statistics, crimes which took place on a bus or at a bus stop are not identifiable. British Transport Police provide detailed information for crime on the railways. In her comments on the paper, Marjory Rodger indicated equivalent data for buses would be welcome, citing studies which showed that crime was a significant problem. It was thought unlikely that figures for crimes at or near bus stops could be produced. Inspector Dykes indicated that Lothian and Borders police do record "bus" crimes but do not identify them separately in returns to the Scottish Executive. Different Police Forces might have different arrangements for recording the location of crimes. He also questioned what would be done with the data were it made available. There was debate over what should be reported as a bus crime and whether to count crimes like minor vandalism (which may only be recorded by the bus company, without being reported to the police). There was also debate regarding whether survey information about perceptions/ fear of crime or the actual level of crime was the most appropriate statistical measure when considering influences on people's transport choices. It was agreed that fear of crime and actual crime would be dealt with by different policy initiatives, and the difference between trends in the two would be of interest.

Action: SE and DfT need to look at what information is available and consider the remit for any subgroup. A possible starting point may be any information about the scale of the problem which could be provided by Lothian and Borders police. Mr Dixon would also examine what (if any) information is collected in the SE and DfT Bus Passenger Satisfaction Surveys and in the Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey.