It is the dedicated team that’s cut crime on the region’s buses, trains and trams by 70 per cent in just eight years.
Now the new head of the Safer Travel Partnership is aiming to continue the trend and make public transport users feel even safer on the West Midlands network.
Inspector Rachel Crump has previously earned the nickname “Sheriff of Sutton Park" for her commitment to stamping out crime and anti-social behaviour at the nature reserve…but now she is focussed on her new role and perhaps a new moniker. The Marshal of the Metro!
Tell us a bit more about the Safer Travel Partnership, Rachel?
"In the most simple terms we are here to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour on public transport and ensuring commuters feel safer on the trains, buses and trams.
"It is part of a successful partnership with West Midlands Police, British Transport Police and transport operators in the region.
"It was the first partnership of its kind in the country and we have we have a team of more than 30 people including PCs, PCSOs and CCTV operators.
"We also have access to over 1,000 CCTV cameras at bus, rail and metro stations along with shelters and park and ride locations. A dedicated control centre is staffed 24 hours a day to monitor and respond to incidents."
Can people feel safe on our public transport network?
"Absolutely! The team has had great success in cutting crime: it’s down 70 per cent in the last eight years and last year saw another reduction with almost 400 fewer offences compared to the previous 12 months (6,199 in 2014/15 to 5,822 in 2015-16).
"We are always striving to do more and will continue to run operations and take action against those who commit crimes.
"We have a visible presence but also have plain clothed officers on buses, trains and metros as we target known hotspots including train and bus stations."
What kinds of Operations?
"We conduct seasonal operations to tackle historical crime trends and these have proved successful.
"We ran Operation Goliath − a month-long crackdown to prevent anti-social behaviour on the bus network − in March which saw a 12 per cent drop in crime compared to the previous 12 months.
"There is traditionally a rise in complaints about anti-social behaviour as the lighter nights arrive and we target hotspot areas.
"We had extra patrols and officers on-board in uniform and plain clothes and made arrests for offences including assaults, criminal damage and drug possession.
"We are already planning ahead to the winter where we will be focussing extra patrols around Birmingham New Street, Snow Hill, Moor Street and key routes and bus terminals within the West Midlands area during the busy Christmas period.
"But one of the more recent initiatives we have been focussing on is sexual harassment as part of Operation Empower."
What is Operation Empower?
"It aims to tackle sexual harassment on public transport and to encourage victims to report unwanted advances.
"We want to increase confidence in passengers to let us know about any incidents, particularly offences deemed low-level which people may shrug off or deem not serious enough to report.
"It is crucial they don’t ignore what has happened as the person could carry on offending − potentially with increased seriousness − if they believe they’re getting away with it.
"Unwanted advances are unacceptable and passengers should not tolerate such behaviour.
"Safer Travel has trained bus drivers and conductors to spot signs of inappropriate behaviour, like offenders sitting next to lone females and pinning them in against the window seat. The training is helping us prevent offences, support victims and get intelligence on sex offence suspects.
"Last year a man was convicted and given a suspended jail term for sexual assault after stroking a woman’s leg and putting his arm around her.
"His image was caught on CCTV and within 24 hours of us releasing his picture he was identified. It illustrates how seriously we take such crimes and how we need the help of the public."
How important are the public in helping to drive down crime?
"We have a team of highly skilled, very determined officers and staff but they cannot do this alone.
"We need to work with the public to make sure they feel safer and even more reassured on the transport network.
"We have the See Something Say Something scheme which allows members to report any nuisance or anti-social behaviour anonymously.
"We are getting more than 100 reports a month and these are picked up by our Anti-Social Behaviour team to investigate.
"Getting information from the public helps our investigations and to take action ranging from warning letters to Criminal Behaviour Orders. It can also help to identify hotspots so we can target these areas."
So how else does the Safer Travel Partnership set about reducing crime?
"We go into schools and give presentations on how to stay safe on public transport and to avoid being a victim of crime.
"We also have cycle surgeries where people can bring their bikes and learn how to keep them safe.
"At the moment we are carrying out patrols on trains and rail stations to prevent thefts as part of a summer operation.
"With it being a time of year for holidays and music festivals there are officers who will be on the look-out for opportunist criminals and offering advice to commuters on keeping luggage safe and valuables out of view."
How did the moniker Sheriff of Sutton Park come about?
"It started more than 10 years ago when I was a lead beat officer covering Sutton Park, Wyndley Leisure Centre and the Four Oaks residential area.
"There had been a spate of robberies, thefts and general anti-social behaviour so we did extra high visibility patrols and operations.
"Amongst the things we did was work with park rangers to source funding for two off-road bikes to assist us.
"Overall, we managed to see a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour in the park and near the leisure centre.
"Someone said I was the unofficial Sheriff of Sutton Park and it just went from there to the point where everyone in the area calling me that name…it’s something I look back on with pride!
"I ended up with a community services award in the force’s first annual awards for women in policing."
What other areas of police work have you been involved with?
"Before I joined the police I worked in milk delivery and then at the Royal Mail sorting office.
"But I always wanted to join the police force, it was a burning ambition and something I would have regretted if I hadn’t joined.
"I have been on response, attending emergency incidents, and neighbourhood teams within the force area along with being a Sergeant with the partnerships team at Birmingham City Council.
"I also spent some time with Force Contact; it was probably the biggest learning curve I have been on during my time with WMP. It is the forefront of policing, the first point of contact with the public when they call needing help and guidance. You are assessing police resources, the vulnerabilities of people and potential threats to communities all within a matter of moments.
"I believe all the knowledge I have picked up will help me in the current role."
So what are your aims for Safer Travel?
"We want people to continue feeling safe on public transport and for crime and anti-social behaviour to carry on reducing. I can already see a lot of hard work is going on to make sure this happens.
"I will have to wait and see whether I can earn the title Marshal of the Metro...watch this space!"