‘Emerging threat’ of youth anti-social behaviour on trains and buses in Scotland – British Transport Police
The head of British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland said anti-social behaviour on the rail network could spread to buses once free travel is extended to under-22s from the end of January.
Chief Superintendent Gill Murray said anti-social behaviour had been “elevated” since the start of the Covid pandemic last year, and included “a wide range of crimes, from low level nuisance and vandalism to threatening and violent behaviour directed towards peers, passengers and authority figures”.
BTP’s Scotland divisional commander told a meeting of the Scottish Railways Policing Committee (SRPC): "The future threat for us is particularly around these free buses coming in.
"The [Scottish] Government is going to give free travel to people under the age of 22, which, bearing in mind what we have had with youth behaviour previously and the work we have been doing with kids so far, that might influence that."
BTP told Scotland on Sunday the comment was in reference to the force raising concerns in April about youths travelling far and wide across the rail network without parental consent or knowledge of where they were.
Dozens of children, some as young as 12, were found up to 25 miles away from home.
Last month, a 14-year-old boy died after being found seriously injured at High Street Station in Glasgow.
A 16-year-old has been charged in connection with his death.
Three youths have been charged in connection with an alleged assault the previous day on a 13-year-old boy on a train at nearby Bellgrove.
Chf Supt Murray was asked at the SRPC meeting on Tuesday by Scottish Police Authority member and former Lothian and Borders Police deputy chief constable Tom Halpin: "Is there an emergence of a wider issue as regarding youth and gangs on the rail network?"
She replied: "From a societal perspective we have definitely seen an emerging threat or trend around the youth of today.
"Anti-social behaviour is a threat.”
A BTP spokesperson later confirmed: "We are aware of groups of youths congregating on trains from an anti-social behaviour perspective.
“We completely understand the two violent incidents in Glasgow last month will have caused concern, and passengers will have noticed enhanced patrols on trains, as well as the use of [metal-detecting] knife arches in stations, in response to this.
"Thankfully, incidents like this remain rare on the railway in Scotland and we are working tirelessly to ensure the network remains a safe place to travel.
"Passengers continue to be our eyes and ears, and they can help us by reporting crimes and concerns by texting 61016 or calling 999 in an emergency.”
One major bus firm said it was confident any youths involved in anti-social behaviour could be traced using on-board CCTV and the smartcards they will have to use for free travel.
Paul White, director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK - Scotland, which represents bus operators, said: “We would be doing young people a disservice by assuming the free travel scheme will bring a rise in instances of anti-social behaviour on buses.
"However, both government and bus operators must work together to educate young people about how to behave while on a bus, such as wearing a mask and respecting other passengers.”
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