Almost half of crimes reported on Wigan’s railways last year went unsolved, shocking new figures reveal.
Data obtained through the Freedom of Information act shows that British Transport Police could not identify a suspect in 39 out of 86 crimes reported on the borough’s rail network in 2018, meaning 45 per cent of perpetrators were not brought to justice.
Crimes reported varied in nature, from thefts and criminal damage to arson, sexual assaults and even a report of a child being incited to engage in sexual activity at Hindley station in January 2018. On that occasion, a suspect was identified but “evidential difficulties” meant no charge was made.
The same station was also the setting for an incident last May in which a man with a baseball bat smashed a train window and injured a member of staff.
Two men had become involved in an altercation with a member of staff on the platform, before one pulled the weapon from his jacket and smashed the cab window, injuring the worker. On this occasion, charges were brought against the culprit.
But this was one of just 20 per cent of all the incidents across the borough which resulted in charges being made, the data revealed.
Between 2016 and 2018, nine sexual offences were reported to BTP and railway stations in the borough, along side 39 violent crimes.
Nationally, the figures also showed that nine times out of ten, thieves are getting away with their crimes on Britain’s railways. And half of all 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.
“It’s a reflection of the under-resourcing of the BTP 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 British Transport Police rose by 30 per cent in the two years to 2018, with more than 66,000 offences on trains, tracks and stations last year.
In Wigan alone, the rate of railway crimes has risen by 23 per cent.
And although officer numbers have risen slightly, the rate of unsolved cases has remained stubbornly high, at about 60 per cent, for the past three years.
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.
About half (49 per cent) of sexual offences went unsolved last year, including eight rapes.
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, analysis of the figures by the JPIMedia Data Unit shows.
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.”
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.