Number of violent crimes going unsolved on North Yorkshire's railways rises by 350 per cent in three years

A graphic visualisation of the investigation's findings.
A graphic visualisation of the investigation's findings.

The number of violent crimes to go unsolved on North Yorkshire's railways increased by 350 per cent between 2016 and 2018, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

An investigation into crime on Britain's railways by the JPIMedia Data Unit found half of all crimes reported on the railways in North Yorkshire went unsolved last year.

Half of all crimes reported on the railways in North Yorkshire went unsolved in 2018.

Half of all crimes reported on the railways in North Yorkshire went unsolved in 2018.

A total of 167 crimes were recorded by British Transport Police (BTP) in the county last year, with no suspect identified in 84 of them, and only 17 (10 per cent) resulting in charge or summons.

The number of violent crimes reported in North Yorkshire to BTP rose by 48 per cent, from 25 to 37, between 2016 and 2018.

The percentage of those violent crimes which went unsolved rose by 350 per cent in the same time frame and of the 37 violent crimes reported last year in the county, nine were closed with 'no suspect identified'.

75 per cent of thefts of passenger property in the county also went unsolved, an increase of 80 per cent compared to 2016.

Crime rates across Britain have been on the rise in recent years and its railways have been no different. Stock photo.

Crime rates across Britain have been on the rise in recent years and its railways have been no different. Stock photo.

In North Yorkshire, however, no sexual offences reported on the railways last year went unsolved, bucking a national trend which saw no suspect identified in almost half of all sexual offences, including eight rapes.

The national picture

Nine times out of ten, thieves are getting away with their crimes on Britain’s railways, meanwhile, half of sexual offences on the rail network are going unsolved.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail union RMT, said: “These are shocking statistics which show that on far too many occasions a criminal act on the railways is a free ride for the perpetrator.

The number of violent crimes to go unsolved on North Yorkshire's railways increased by 350 per cent between 2016 and 2018.Stock photo.

The number of violent crimes to go unsolved on North Yorkshire's railways increased by 350 per cent between 2016 and 2018.Stock photo.

“It’s a reflection of the under-resourcing of the British Transport Police and the drive to axe train and platform staff.

“The solution is investment in staffing and security and a zero tolerance approach that brings to book all those who think they can turn the railway into a criminal’s playground.”

Crime rates across Britain have been on the rise in recent years and its railways have been no different.

The number of crimes logged by BTP rose by 30 per cent in the two years to 2018, with more than 66,000 offences on trains, tracks and stations last year.

And although officer numbers have risen slightly, the rate of unsolved cases has remained stubbornly high for the past three years when compared with other police forces.

Across all police forces in England and Wales, 46 per cent of crimes had ‘no suspect identified’ in 2018, whereas for BTP it was 59 per cent.

Last year, 91 per cent of thefts of passenger property went unsolved - with cases either shelved because no suspect had been identified in England and Wales or logged as ‘undetected’ in Scotland.

Violent crime has been soaring on the railways, with violent offences up 49 per cent in the two years to 2018.

But police did better in solving these crimes, with just three in ten cases unsolved.

‘Plain clothes patrols’

Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith from British Transport Police, said crime on the railways remains “incredibly low”, with less than one journey in a million involving any kind of violence.

He said the force conducts “a great number of highly visible as well as plain clothes patrols to identify pickpockets, or those exploiting the crowded network to commit sexual offences”.

He said: “Fortunately, the majority of crimes reported to BTP result in no injury coming to a victim, such as theft, common assault or vandalism.

“Nevertheless, we understand these crimes are concerning for passengers, and I would like to reassure them that we are completely committed to reducing and preventing crime.”

‘Potential to undermine public confidence’

Diana Fawcett, Chief Officer of the charity Victim Support (England and Wales), said: “People should feel safe going about their daily lives and confident that if they report a crime they will get the justice they deserve.

“In cases where a suspect is not identified it’s important that the reasons behind this are explained to the victim so they don’t just feel that their case has been dropped.

“This news has the potential to undermine public confidence in the criminal justice system and could deter people from coming forward to report a crime in the future.”

In Northern Ireland, where railways are policed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the number of crimes on the rail network was far lower than in any other UK region, with just 180 crimes logged last year.

A spokesperson for PSNI said this was partly due to the “lower number of rail stations and lines in Northern Ireland as compared to elsewhere in the UK”.

Violent offences were the most common crime type, accounting for 44 per cent of crimes on the railways.

In most cases, the outcomes of investigations were not recorded.