Rail teams improve safety on Southern routes

RAIL travel in the South has been made safer with the launch of a team of dedicated officers whose aim is to crack down on antisocial behaviour and low-level disorder on trains and at railway stations.

British Transport Police (BTP) joined forces with Southern Railway and on 16th April launched four teams comprising of thirty two accredited Rail Neighbourhood Officers (RNOs) '“ specialist, accredited rail staff.

They will work side-by-side with BTP officers to reduce crime and the fear of crime at dedicated stations on the Southern network, including Bexhill, Hastings, and St Leonards Warrior Square.

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Each team will work alongside a BTP police constable, overseen by an area Sergeant and an overall Inspector.

Southern's Managing Director, Chris Burchell said the officers will be an added benefit for both passengers and staff:

"The RNO's will provide a more visible, professional and reassuring presence on our trains and at our stations. They will ensure that our passengers and staff can travel and work feeling safer and more secure on our network."

Each RNO has passed a rigorous 'accreditation' course, endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, giving them a range of additional powers including:

*Issuing BTP penalty notices for offences such as trespass and graffiti.

*The power to seize alcohol from under-age drinkers.

*Dealing with anti-social behaviour.

BTP Assistant Chief Constable Alan Pacey said the teams will be a valuable addition to the existing policing presence on the Southern Network:

"This scheme is a fantastic enhancement of BTP's policing presence on the railway and will provide further reassurance for passengers.

"While we already have officers who tackle crime and passenger safety issues on trains and stations acrossLondonand the south,these additional teams will act as a reassuring presence patrolling the line from London down to Brighton and along the south coast.

"The team will be tasked on a daily basis to patrol hotspot locations where anti-social behaviour and low-level disorder is reported and they will also be supported by other officers and specialist resources such as drugs dogs when required.

"By having specific teams targeting dedicated lines of route, passengers can be assured of seeing a higher visibility presence across the Southern network, which we believe will make great inroads in further reducing crime."

Sharon Hedges, manager, of independent passenger watchdog Passenger Focus, welcomes the introduction of the RNOs:

"Passengers' safety and security is of paramount importance. This partnership between Southern Railways and the BTP is a positive and welcome step towards preventing crime and helping passengers feel safe when they travel by train and through the station.

"We look forward to hearing more about the progress of the teams and any lessons to apply on the wider rail network."