Women's safety Scotland: Anti-sexual harassment British Transport Police patrols launched on trains during festive period
British Transport Police (BTP) has launched policing patrols across Scotland as part of their campaign to tackle sexual harassment on public transport as a detective chief inspector admits “some degree of confidence” in the police has been lost following the murder of Sarah Everard.
The patrols launched by British Transport Police on Friday night aim to increase police visibility over the festive period to tackle sexual harassment.
BTP claims they are working closely with their rail industry colleagues to make sure members of the public’s journey are safe and free from harassment or abuse.
The patrols will be out over the weekends across trains departing from Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Central and Glasgow Queen Street.
Regular policing patrols will continue across the whole of Scotland and the campaign will be highlighted across their social media accounts.
Recorded cases of sexual assault on public transport have increased in the past year despite remaining low in these recorded cases.
According to BTP, there were 16 offences in 2019/20, which fell to four during the same period in 2020/21.
However, there are 21 recorded cases in the current crime recording year.
Speaking from a train in Glasgow as the patrols were launched on Friday night, Detective Chief Inspector Arlene Wilson: "We've increased patrols across trains to hand out the text 6106 cards in relation to members of the public feeling safer and, in particular, to sexual harassment.
"Sexual offences in the rail network are extremely low, but one sexual offence is one too many for British Transport Police.”
The campaign comes following the horrific case of Everard, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a former Metropolitan police officer when she walking home at night.
Iona Fyfe, the 23-year-old Scots singer, said: “I’d feel safer if there was transport police or even a dedicated train guard for each train. Especially the ones at night, where people could feasibly be followed home in the dark and less people are generally about.
"I moved to Springburn last year, and the thought of a train journey from Glasgow Queen Street to Springburn after a night out – then the walk home – has absolutely terrified me into simply not drinking and taking the car to socialise.
"Trains, especially the night trains and the trains from Edinburgh to Glasgow, are full of rowdy groups, and men are constantly jeering women of all ages. It’s so off putting.”
A 23-year-old woman and train user from Scotland who wished to remain anonymous said: “I hope the increased patrols will work and I’m quite happy they are doing this, but a lot of people are still cautious of the police and might not come forward, so I worry about that.”
Caitlin Alexander, 25, who volunteered as part of a feminist town planning project in Glasgow for YWCA Scotland, agreed that increased policing patrols on trains across Scotland to tackle sexual harassment would be beneficial.
She said: “I do believe that increased policing patrols on trains across Scotland to tackle sexual harassment would be beneficial.
"Especially at night, many people feel unsafe on public transport and sometimes will even take a taxi instead to avoid having to use it.
"I know various people who will even put earphones in to try to avoid being approached but won't listen to music through them so that they can stay vigilant.
"I feel like we definitely need to take this issue more seriously.”
Asked if there was a concern of distrust amongst the public towards the police, Detective Chief Inspector Arlene Wilson said: "People to some degree have lost some amount of confidence and that confidence will take some time to build back.
"Speaking as a woman and speaking as a mother of a teenage girl and teenage boy, I would want them to approach police officers if they felt scared or they needed help.
"I would say that the majority of people that I have worked with in the police have all been good individuals that have wanted to help.”
DCI Wilson remained confident the campaign would build trust in the public for the police.
She said: "Across British Transport Police, we want people to come forward and report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable because we are here to help and that’s what our job is all about.
"We are trying to improve confidence in police and it’s certainly something we hope to achieve."
To report an incident of sexual harassment on trains, people can text BTP on 61016, send the details via their online reporting tool or call 0800 40 50 40 at any time.
If anyone is in immediate danger, they are urged to always call 999.