In April 2015 British Transport Police launched the "Report It To Stop It" campaign in a bid to tackle sexual assaults and harassment on public transport. Anyone should feel they can go about their daily lives without being commented on, touched, or followed. Over a year on analysis by the PA news agency has found that reports of sexual assault on the London underground have skyrocketed. While some have pointed to the "Report It To Stop It" campaign for the rise in reported incidents, campaigners argue that this is still a massively underreported issue and more needs to be done to stop attackers before they have the chance to assault or harass the people around them.
The Tube is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get around London and whatever the time of day people should feel safe in the knowledge that they’re not going to be sexually harassed or touched. However, stories about unwanted touching or attention on the tube are not few or far between. According to analysis by PA reported incidents of sexual assault on the tube have risen by 42 percent in the last four years. In 2015/16 there was 844 reports of sexual assault. In 2018/19 there was 1,206.
The Central line, which has no CCTV cameras on its trains, recorded the highest number of sexual assaults over the past four years. There have been 1,054 incidents in total reported on the line since the initiative started in 2015. And from January to March 2019, there were 305 recorded sexual assaults. The Victoria Line has the next highest number of incidents, with 645 reports since 2015, then the Northern line at 601 reports, and the Jubilee line at 547.
While Transport for London said that offences were more common during the day on busy lines the mayor of London's office released figures that highlighted there have been 138 reported sexual assaults on the night tube since it was introduced in Aug. 2016.
British Transport Police have said that they expected the number of reported sexual assaults to rise after the introduction of "Report It To Stop" It. Speaking to the Independent Detective Inspector David Udomhiaye, from BTP, explained, “[the initiative] includes any form of behaviour that makes [people] feel uncomfortable. That could be rubbing, leering, sexual comments, indecent acts or more serious sexual assault.” He continued:
"With the campaign in place since April 2015, we fully expected to record a rise in sexual offences and, though it is clearly a concern that so many people are affected by this type of crime, it is pleasing that previously reluctant victims of sexual offences now have the confidence to report this to us."
However, campaigners still feel not enough is being done to stop attacks taking place. Andrea Simon, the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s head of public affairs told the Guardian: “It’s not enough to just encourage the reporting of sexual harassment and assaults. Alongside this we need to be proactively identifying offenders and stopping them.” She continued:
“CCTV shows that they will move around the transport network looking for women to target, most often during the commuter rush hours when the tube network is busiest.”
Transport for London have admitted that installation of CCTV on the Central line trains won’t be completed before 2023 which leaves you asking the question, with such a monumental rise in reported sexual assaults, what measures are in place to stop attackers? Transport for London's director of policing Siwan Hayward told the Independent, “more undercover patrols take place on the Central line than any other line and a programme of work is under way to install CCTV on the line as quickly as possible from 2020.” She continued:
“This activity includes running regular covert patrols on the Tube network with plain-clothed officers, which have been successful in catching offenders and encouraging more people to report offences.”
Campaigns like "Report It To Stop It" are amazing at encouraging people to come forward if they’ve experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport and helping people feel listened to and reassured. However, with such a massive rise in reported incidents it does appear that more could be done to help stop attacks from happening in the first place.