How safe are our railway stations?
SHOCKING figures reveal that in the last 12 months there were four sexual assaults at just one railway station in Comet country. Figures released to The Comet following a request made to the British Transport Police (BTP) under the Freedom of Information
SHOCKING figures reveal that in the last 12 months there were four sexual assaults at just one railway station in Comet country.
Figures released to The Comet following a request made to the British Transport Police (BTP) under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Letchworth GC station was the location of three assaults on females and one on a male all aged 13 or over.
They all occurred between October 20, 2005 and October 19, 2006 - the day our request was lodged to find out just how safe the stations in our area were.
We asked the BTP for details of how many separate offences had taken place at each station in Comet country and which crimes took place.
Stevenage had the highest number with 33 incidents over the last 12 months including 13 common assaults, eight reports of actual bodily harm (ABH), and two each of indecent exposure and possession of offensive weapons.
In addition to the four sexual offences at Letchworth GC there were also seven other incidents including indecent exposure and possession of an offensive weapon.
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There were 11 offences at both Biggleswade and Hitchin, the majority of which were common assaults and ABH, and at Arlesey there were five.
Baldock was the safest station with only two reported incidents over 12 months. We are still awaiting figures for Sandy.
Altogether there were 73 separate offences over the 12 month period, although this is down from the previous year when there were 78 - half of which occurred in Stevenage.
However, both years were still higher than in 2003-2004 when there were only 60 separate offences.
Speaking on behalf of First Capital Connect, the company which manages the stations in our area, communications officer Robert Beahan said that the safety and security of customers and staff was paramount.
Mr Beahan said: "We inherited the franchise in April this year, at which time there was a low level of investment in a number of key areas, including stations and security.
"Since April 2006 we have invested heavily, and will continue to invest in security enhancements for the benefit of our customers.
"Many of our stations are covered by CCTV, including Stevenage, Hitchin, Letchworth, Arlesey, Biggleswade and Baldock.
"We have carried out a CCTV consultation and will be installing cameras at stations that are not currently covered by the network and increasing the number of cameras at certain key locations.
"To support the CCTV we will be opening a new 24 hour, seven day a week monitoring centre by the summer of 2007.
"Where we have encountered particular issues, or where customers have reported anti-social issues, we have put particular schemes in place.
"This includes the appointment of security guards at Letchworth and Stevenage stations, which are adjacent to bars and restaurants and attract a high number of people, some of whom cause problems near our stations."
A spokesman for the BTP, who provided the information at our request, said: "Combating violent crime is a police priority.
"It is often relatively minor offences, for instance violence associated with football, drunkenness and general disorder, which create an environment of fear.
"Routine high visibility patrolling is therefore an important police activity and high profile policing at vulnerable times and places can deter offenders.
"The force co-operates with the railway businesses to introduce environmental improvements and technology such as closed circuit TV to deter offences."
The BTP also works with other agencies, including Crime Concern and Crimestoppers, in order to help cut crime in and around stations.