Are we growing more violent as a society? Is there some serious tension simmering just under the surface of the modern age?
These are questions we might be asking ourselves in light of the news that violent attacks are on the rise on our transport networks.
According to the yearly report released by British Transport Police (BTP), 9,263 violent attacks took place in the year 2016/17, an increase of 12.5 percent on 2015/16.
Of those, the majority (5,907 attacks) were classified as common assault meaning that the victims were not injured.
There were a total of seven attacks resulting in the victim’s death in 2016/17 compared to only two from the previous year.
This is largely in line with national police statistics which have seen an 18 percent rise in attacks in general. This is the highest level of crime Britain has seen in a decade.
Other crimes have risen on trains and underground services too.
Hate crimes have risen by 23 percent from last year, with 2,756 reported incidents. In line with findings from other police services, BTP said they noticed a sharp spike in hate crimes in response to major geo-political events such as the EU referendum and the Nice terror attacks in July.
Of the 2,756 incidents around 2,300 are listed as being racially motivated with 40 percent of those attacks happening to people working on public transport.
In addition, reports of sexual offences are on the increase too. 1,952 sexual offences were reported last year compared to 2,132 this year – a rise of eight percent.
However, BTP was quick to deny any suggestion that trains are becoming more dangerous places than they were before.
The report foregrounds that there were a lot more journeys taken by passengers in the past year. 17.5m additional journeys were recorded this year compared to last.
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The police also argue that crime statistics are growing because more people are coming forward to report attacks.
This could be spurred on by the successful marketing campaigns run by BPS encouraging passengers to report any incidents they see.
I spoke to a TfL representative who told me that they began a cross-organisational sexual offences response, in conjunction with BTP, Met Police and City of London Police, in 2013. Since the campaign (Project Guardian, which has since become Report It To Stop It) began I was told the number of sexual harassment offences reported has doubled to more than 2,000. 36% more people have been arrested for these offences since 2013 too!
Chief Constable Paul Crowther of the British Transport Police said:
Like most police forces in England and Wales, we recorded more crimes in 2016/17. This was due to a number of factors, including victims and witnesses having the confidence to report crime to us, thanks in part to our discreet and convenient text 61016 service, and targeted campaigns to encourage reporting of crime. Despite this increase, the chance of you becoming a victim of crime on the railway remains low, with just 16 crimes for every million journeys made on our railways. A decade ago, we recorded more than twice this, with 35 crimes for every million passenger journeys.
Crowther went on to say:
Over the past decade, we have seen crime on the railway decrease. Recorded crimes are more than a third lower than they were 10 years ago, despite passenger journeys increasing by 44 percent in that time. Crime on the railway has decreased by 34 percent compared with 2006/07, and crimes like robbery have decreased by 82 percent, theft of passenger property by 47 percent and criminal damage by 55 percent.
Still, it’s hard not to compare the news of an increase in attacks on commuters to the story of violence that broke yesterday.
A jogger on Putney Bridge pushed a pedestrian, seemingly at random, into the road in front of a double-decker bus. The bus driver’s quick reactions saved the woman’s life but she did suffer minor injuries.
Is there a kind of rage bubbling up beneath society in the 21st Century? Will attacks like this become more common?
There’s no doubt that this is a serious issue that needs to be tackled.
However, it may not be worth worrying about too much. Despite the increase in crime on British trains and underground services, you’re still incredibly unlikely to be victim to an assault.
Just 0.000002 percent passengers were subject to common assault this year and only 0.0000007 percent were physically harmed during an attack.