In a first in Europe, body cameras have been rolled out across the Netherlands’ leading railway operator.

Dutch railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), which is state-owned, has equipped 700 passenger-facing staff with Zepcam body cameras to help limit the escalation of violent incidents.

The deployment follows a trial of the technology on 80 employees, where it was found to have improved “the sense of safety of passengers and NS employees”, according to De Telegraaf.

Combatting violent behaviour on public transport

The Netherlands has been facing growing numbers of violent incidents on the country’s public transport.

In a survey of 87,000 transport passengers in the country conducted by CROW earlier this year, 15.5% reported facing aggression or violence. In a comparable study in 2016, only 13.5% reported similar experiences. It is not known why this increase has occurred.

“I believe that the bodycam can help employees positively influence an escalating situation and possibly even prevent an incident,” said Marjolein Maasland, a representative of Dutch Railways, of the decision to deploy body cameras.

Body cameras beyond law enforcement

While body cameras have already become common in law enforcement environments, and increasingly in some healthcare situations, their use in transport remains extremely limited.

This is the first time a nationwide European public transport provider had made use of the technology on this scale. However, if it proves successful it is likely other public transport providers will follow suit.

“We are very proud to be the ones helping Dutch Railways’ safety and service personnel and their passengers decrease violence and prevent escalation,” said Zepcam CEO Bart van der Aa.

“A growing number of organisations [are] discovering the benefits of our bodycam solutions for application in busses and subway trains and stations. We aim to make public transport safer all over Europe.”

Privacy concerns surrounding body cameras

The growing use of body cameras has prompted significant privacy concerns, with critics arguing that they create a surveillance environment.

There have also been claims that there is inadequate evidence supporting the benefits of body cameras, particularly in police use.

However, their success in this situation will largely be reliant on how Dutch public transport users respond to them.