Criminals target hi-tech items as theft from rail passengers rises

Tablets are being targeted by thieves

Tablets are being targeted by thieves

Thieves targeting smartphones and tablets have contributed to a 16 per cent rise in theft on the UK’s railway network in the last year, according to the latest figures.

A new report from the British Transport Police, in its Statistical Bulletin for 2012/13, shows that total crime across Britain’s railway network dropped by two per cent in the period. It was the ninth year in succession that a fall in figures was seen.

However, theft of passenger property was up by 16 per cent. The BTP cited the targeting of smartphones and tablets and an increase in organised pickpocket activity as the factors behind the increase in theft offences.

Incidents of violent crime are also on the rise, increasing by 2.5 per cent in 2012/13 – an extra 201 crimes year-on-year. It was the first increase in violence against the person for six years.

Separate figures in June from the Metropolitan Police Service and BTP also showed violence on the London Underground and Docklands Light Railway had increased between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013.

BTP Chief Constable Andy Trotter said a ninth successive year of overall crime drops was a “very good performance” given the budget cuts the Force had seen, while also dealing with growing passenger numbers and infrastructure.

He said: “Increases in theft of passenger property, particularly those targeting smartphones and tablets, reflect the growing problem throughout London and the UK.

“Serious assaults are down almost eight per cent, but there has been an increase of over three per cent in common assault. Racially-aggravated harassment is a significant contribution to the increase in violent crime, which I think reflects a growing intolerance amongst the public of this sort of incident.”

The figures showed that cable theft, an issue which has blighted the railways for several years, dropped by 47 per cent during the period. Previous figures released by Network Rail in April claimed metal and cable theft across the UK railway network dropped by two-thirds in the 12 months to April 2013.

Legislation to ban cash payments under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act is helping to win the war on cable thieves, who cost operators money and cause major disruption for passengers.

Trotter said: “We have made great inroads into the problem of cable theft, which has been a major disruption factor on the rail network.”

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