A new policing group has been launched in Rotherham for the town’s public transport network in an attempt to reduce crime and help to protect vulnerable passengers who use the services.
The scheme has been operating for three months and is already regarded as a success, though it relies on just one police constable to co-ordinate activities across the bus and tram networks which provide public transport in the district.
Details of the scheme have been reported to South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, who was told of successes including an operation including special constables, bus company staff and volunteers trying to find incidents of fraud and theft by those using buses.
That resulted in one being searched who was found to be in possession of a knife and the investigation resulted in him being arrested and charged with an offence.
It also emerged he had been wanted by police for more than a year over the breach of a court order and he was locked up as a result until the matters could be dealt with by the courts.
The operation stretched into the Wicker and Firshill areas of Sheffield, as well as parts of Rotherham and resulted in almost 700 passengers being checked.
Instances of fraud surrounding the use of concessionary passes were identified, along with problems with identification documents in some cases and instant fines totalling £300 were imposed.
Supt Steve Chapman told a meeting of the PCC’s Public Accountability Board that the idea for the TravelSafe scheme had come from an officer who had previously worked in public transport, serving as a special constable before joining the force.
“He thought we were missing a trick,” he told the meeting.
“He gave examples of other forces with police officers and specials working on public transport to engage and also reduce crime, anti social behaviour and protect vulnerable people.”
That resulted in the Rotherham service being established, in conjunction with South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and companies including First South Yorkshire, Stagecoach buses and supertram, along with Powell’s bus company.
The arrangement gives police ready access to the CCTV systems which operate both on buses and at transport interchanges, along with computerised details of how and when bus passes are used.
A practical result of that is that when vulnerable individuals have gone missing – incidents which are taken very seriously by police and are usually time consuming investigations – officers have been able to establish where they have made bus journeys and in some cases officers have been able to find them emerging from buses after working out the journey they would be likely to take.