The 'shocking' number of thefts, sex assaults and attacks on Leeds rail networks revealed in new data

Leeds station. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Leeds station. Picture by Tony Johnson.

A "shocking" number of unsolved crimes across the railway network in Leeds and surrounding areas have been revealed in exclusive new data.

Nine times out of ten, thieves are getting away with their crimes on railways across Britain, while around half of sexual offences on the network have no suspects identified, figures obtained from British Transport Police (BTP) show.

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The total number of crimes on the railway network reported in Leeds in 2018 was 1,216, but no suspect has been identified in 537 of those cases - 44 per cent

JPIMedia Data's investigation shows that between 2016 and 2018 there were 827 thefts reported on the network in the city, but no suspect identified in 693 of cases.

Meanwhile people reported 721 violent crimes, but no suspected identified in 34 cases, while 87 sexual assaults were reported, but no suspect identified in 31 cases.

National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers General Secretary Mick Cash 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.”

Diana Fawcett, chief officer of independent charity Victim Support said: “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.

"It’s important though that victims understand that they can access our support without reporting to the police.”

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In Yorkshire and the Humber, 3,465 offences took place within the network in 2018, but there was no suspect identified in 1,772 (49 per cent) of cases.

While many of the 66,311 offences reported in Britain last year were of theft, crimes also included sexual assaults, racially-aggravated attacks and possession of firearms.

Freedom of Information request results show that police received a report a woman had been raped at Leeds railway station on September 12 last year. She did not want to press charges.

Later that month officers recorded a firearms possession offence at Leeds railway station on September 30 last year. A suspect was identified but the case stalled due to "evidential difficulties".

An offence of administering poison "with intent to injure or annoy" was made at Leeds railway station at 1am on August 9 last year. Again, the victim did not want to press charges.

A serious fraud offence was reported at the Neville Hill train depot in Osmondthorpe, Leeds, on April 25 last year. No suspect was ever identified in the case of false representation.

A racially-aggravated assault was reported at Pontefract Tanshelf rail station in the district of Wakefield shortly before 1pm on June 12 of last year. The victim was uninjured, the log says, but no suspect was ever identified.

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Across Britain, nearly half (49 per cent) of sexual offences went unsolved last year, including eight rapes. Violent crime has been soaring on the railways, with such offences up 49 per cent in the two years to 2018.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, 3,465 offences were reported in the network in 2018, but in 1,772 of cases - again 49 per cent - no suspect has been identified. It compares to 59 per cent of cases in Britain where suspects have not been identified or go “undetected”.

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.”

While some crime happens along the route of the train, it is recorded generally at the terminus station.

A number offences recorded at bars on Call Lane were included in the figures because part of the area is controlled by BTP.