Ibiza Mike Posner
Busy Birmingham bus routes will be targeted by police throughout March as officers look to tackle a baffling trend that's seen thefts from passengers spike this month in each of the last two years.
Thefts like bag snatches, purse dipping and phone robberies on the region's buses ran at more than 20 per cent above the yearly average in both March 2011 and 2012.
West Midlands Police's Safer Travel team has vowed the pattern won't continue this year and launched an operation that will see intensive policing of city routes to reassure passengers and deter offenders.
Plain-clothes officers will also be travelling on targeted routes to identify suspects and catch thieves in the act.
Acting Sergeant Karen Taylor from Safer Travel, said: "Most perpetrators of crime on public transport don't have valid tickets so we'll be working alongside revenue inspectors; any fare dodgers will be spoken to by officers and checks made against police computers.
"The operation will also include increased high visibility patrols and police inputs at schools where we'll be offering advice to pupils on keeping property safe.
"And of course we'll be dealing with anyone found behaving anti-socially on public transport and anyone pointed out by the driver as causing problems on board."
Almost two-thirds of bus passenger victims in March 2011 and 2012 were students, with thieves snatching phones, watches, bags and lap-tops. But with more than 800 on-board security cameras monitoring the regional network, offenders run the very real risk of being identified on CCTV and arrested.
Act Sgt Taylor, added: "A common vulnerability is passengers leaving phones, bags or computers on a seat and not keeping an eye on them this is an invitation for opportunist thieves to strike so officers will be stressing crime prevention advice to passengers.
"Crime on public transport has dropped considerably in recent years and there is now an average of just one offence in every 147,000 bus trips.
"However, in the last two years March has seen above average levels of thefts and robberies on public transport. It's a confusing statistic with no clear explanation and one we're determined to do something about."
The operation sees West Midlands Police working alongside transport police colleagues, National Express, Centro, London Midland, Chiltern Railways and CCTV operators to protect passengers.
Mark Babington, Safer Travel Manager for Centro, the region's transport authority, added: "Crime on the transport network is very low…it's fallen by more than 65 per cent since 2007. Much of that success is down to the work of the Safer Travel Partnership and operations like the one we are carrying out this month.
"But we know anti-social behaviour can be a real concern for passengers; that's why we would urge them to use the See Something Say Something scheme to help provide us with information we need to help stamp out nuisance behaviour."
Passengers who see nuisance behaviour during their journey can say something by texting "bus", "metro" or 'rail' followed by a space and then details of the incident including time, date, location and route number to 83010.