How safe are you on Croydon’s trains?

By - Tuesday 26th April, 2016

Max Shirley has been looking at some crime statistics that might make East Croydon’s commuters uneasy

Since February 2015, 125 crimes have been recorded at East Croydon station. It’s a very busy station indeed: the country’s third busiest non-terminal station with an estimated 71,000 passengers per day embarking, disembarking or changing there, but compared to other stations in the area this crime figure still seems high. West Croydon station, in an area regarded by many as more worrying from a personal security perspective, saw twenty-three in the same time period, South Croydon ten crimes and Selhurst a further twelve crimes.

Millions of citizens throughout the country take public transport, as part of their daily routine. We sit there lost in a book or glued to our phones, but should we be taking more notice of those around us? How safe are we, really, on Croydon’s trains?

Only last week, on the 8th April, trains entering and leaving East Croydon station were heavily delayed as six policemen (three armed) huddled round a man suspected of being in possession of a firearm. The platform was evacuated and the individual arrested shortly after. It’s worth nothing, however, that a police spokesman later commented: “…we understand [that] there was no firearm”.

But violent scenes do occur. On 4th February, three men were arrested after a dispute with staff over a ticket got out of hand. Three policemen were injured during the event. Of the 125 crimes at East Croydon in the last year, thirty-eight are recorded as having become violent. This figure will worry many passengers.

Due to spending cuts, British Transport Police numbers are falling

The men and women in charge of protecting us whilst using public transport are the British Transport Police. Obviously the easiest way to combat this problem would be to increase police numbers. However, due to spending cuts, numbers are decreasing. The BTP has even discussed axing the sex crime unit. The plans have been retracted after they caused public outrage.

Gill Manly, Women’s Equality Party Croydon branch leader, labelled the plans as “blinkered” and “not a good move” shortly after they were announced. Other campaigners have called the move “disturbing” and requested that the BTP explain its decision. In 2014/2015 1,399 sexual offences were recorded on trains. East Croydon station has had twenty-two documented acts of anti-social behaviour in 2015/2016. That’s up from thirteen such incidents the previous year.

However, after looking at various crime statistics for other local railway stations, there has been a small but consistent decrease in other areas. West Croydon station saw twenty-three crimes in this year, down from twenty-six the previous year. South Croydon has moved down to ten crimes from thirteen, and Purley Oaks sits at three crimes in the last year, down from seven in 2014. Perhaps the British Transport Police should be reassessing where their manpower is based; focusing on stations more likely to experience problems.

Zac Goldsmith pledges more police. Sadiq Khan opposes closure of the sexual offences unit

There is a chance that we will see more transport police once the mayor of London has been elected. Zac Goldsmith has already pledged to put 500 more police on the tubes to prevent crimes such as theft and sexual offences. Liberal Democrats’s candidate, Caroline Pidgeon, as well as Sian Berry of Green Party, has requested that more police be present on public transport to combat crimes, especially sexual offences. Sadiq Khan has publicly disagreed with the BTP’s proposal to close the sex crime unit. Nevertheless, he has not mentioned any increase in transport police numbers, and only called for the BTP to make tackling sexual offences its top priority.

Crime appears to be on the rise in Croydon’s gateway train station. I think that we can all agree that this needs to stop. I hope that we will see an increase in officers on public transport in the not-so-distant future, leading to a fall in misconduct.

Max Shirley

Max Shirley

Max recently finished Sixth Form at a local independent school and will be starting an English Literature degree in the new academic year. Max is a copy-editor at a Croydon-based start-up. Twitter: @max_shirley_

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  • Anne Giles

    I was for a long time a member of the BTP PACT (Police & Community Together) team, only resigning recently because I now have a Blue Badge and drive into London instead of going by train. I have always enjoyed train travel, except in the rush hour, because of the crowds and lack of seats. Most of the time I end up talking to really friendly people. The only time I have felt unsafe has been when there is a football match on and a bunch of rowdies are travelling, possibly drunk. I wouldn’t travel late at night, again because of people who are drunk. However, passengers are at fault, because they don’t report things. There is an 0800 number to report things on the train, whether anti-social behaviour, begging, etc. How many people are willing to act as witnesses or give statements? It is not that difficult.

    • Max Shirley

      I agree, crimes are definitely more frequent when events are on – such as football matches. It may be easy to report crimes, but sometimes victims feel unsafe and don’t want to speak out. You can encourage people to report criminals, but you can’t force them.

      • Anne Giles

        BTP now have a number one can text, so nobody knows you are doing it!

  • PolarDog

    I’ve travelled via East Croydon for much of the last 30 years at all times of day and the only incident I ever witnessed was an attempted (and failed) Citizen’s Arrest after an apparent pickpocketing. 125 crimes in a year is less than one every two days. In view of the number of people who pass through the station I don’t find the figure particularly disturbing.