On target: pickpockets and violence against bus drivers 02 December 2008. An anti vandalism operation using CCTV on London’s buses has chalked up nearly 3,000 arrests in its four years of operation. Now Operation Bus Tag is set to take on pickpockets and passengers that are violent to staff.
Since its launch in 2004 Operation Bus Tag has quadrupled the arrest rate for criminal damage on buses. It has a 95 per cent conviction rate with sentences ranging from fines and community service to imprisonment. The operation is run by the Metropolitan Police’s Transport Operational Command Unit and funded by Transport for London.
The latest police figures from April to June 2008/9 show bus related criminal damage had gone down by around a quarter (24 per cent) compared to the year before. Theft and handling offences also went down by 16 percent in the same period.
Graffiti, window etching, seat and window damage and arson are some of the offences classified as criminal damage and that cost bus operating companies millions of pounds each year to repair. Bus Tag has been so successful in tackling these issues that the team is now extending its remit to identifying suspects who have committed pickpocket offences on board buses, or have been violent to bus staff.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The anti social behaviour that is targeted by Bus Tag consists of exactly the sort of unpleasant offences that I am determined my mayoralty will stamp out. Londoners deserve to travel on buses that are free of foul scribblings and in a condition that will make them a pleasure to use. The officers working on Bus Tag have done a remarkable job of reducing these offences and I am gladdened by the news that they will also now focus their talents on detecting petty theft and abusive passengers.”
To support Operation BusTag on its fourth anniversary, officers will be distributing a new, bespoke leaflet to school children and parents titled ’Committing Criminal Damage on buses – Is it worth damaging your future?’, which describes the consequences of committing criminal damage on London’s bus network.
Chief Superintendent Royle, Transport Operational Command Unit said: “We are working together to keep London moving safely and to drive down crime and the fear of crime.
“Vandalism, graffiti and etching on buses creates an intimidating atmosphere for passengers and increases the fear of crime.
“If you commit criminal damage on buses you will be caught with the help of CCTV images and prosecuted.”
Steve Burton, Director of Community Safety Enforcement and Policing, said: “Whilst crime on London’s buses is low and getting lower we know there is always more that can be done. We are delighted by the success of Operation Bus Tag and that this team will be extending its remit, targeting those criminals who abuse our staff.
“Our passengers have the right to travel safely and to do so in a clean and comfortable environment.
“With around 60,000 CCTV cameras installed on London’s 8,000 buses we are able to take action against anyone caught causing damage. I hope this serves as a stern reminder to anyone with criminal intent that our cameras are watching, so we’ll catch them and we will bring them to justice.”
Operation BusTag has also actively assisted other MPS operations combating serious offences where Bus CCTV images have been secured as part of an investigation.
Additionally, the co-operation from local press who publish CCTV images in their newspapers has proved invaluable in identifying those responsible for criminal damage on buses. Neighbourhood Watch websites have also published CCTV images which have boosted the identification rate.