More steps taken towards Safer Travel

Bus drivers across the West Midlands have been equipped with ‘mini DNA kits’ to help police track anyone who spits at them or fellow passengers.

‘Spit kits – which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags – allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis.

The move comes as latest figures show that 88 spitting incidents have been reported to National Express West Midlands dedicated Assault Officer so far this year.

National Express West Midlands 3,500 local drivers have been supplied with the packages following a successful trial in Birmingham City Centre.

Several offenders have now been traced through DNA hits as a result of the initiative, including a 24-year-old man who was jailed for 12 weeks after spitting at a bus driver on the number 17 service in Yardley.

The initiative has been introduced through the Safer Travel Partnership, which brings together West Midlands and British Transport Police, transport authority Centro and National Express to safeguard bus, train and tram users.

Police Constable Sarah Hipkins, said: “Spitting is a disgusting, despicable offence and we will push for common assault charges against offenders.
“This type of DNA processing has been used on the railway previously and our trial has been successful. Drivers and passengers should not be expected to tolerate it on our bus routes and these spit kit devices allow us to obtain irrefutable DNA evidence which helps us track offenders and secure convictions at court.”

Samples are stored in a fridge before being despatched for forensics analysis with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.
If not, the DNA record is kept on file with the case resurrected if the suspect is later arrested on another matter.

Peter Coates, Managing Director of National Express West Midlands said: “Incidents of spitting on our vehicles are few and far between, but these rare occasions are unacceptable to us, our staff and our customers. We have invested in these DNA kits to help the Police track down the few mindless individuals, who are guilty of this disgusting behaviour."

Cllr Kath Hartley, Vice Chair of Centro, added: “The kits are used to obtain DNA evidence against anyone spitting at staff or passengers. Although spitting is rare on public transport we remain determined to tackle it and our message to would-be offenders is simple - spit at drivers or passengers and you will be caught, DNA doesn't lie."

The Safer Travel Partnership stressed that spitting would be dealt with as a criminal offence, but also urged passengers to help tackle non-criminal nuisance behaviour by using the See Something Say Something Campaign.

Passengers who witness anti-social behaviour during their journey can say something anonymously by texting the word ‘bus’, ‘metro’ or ‘rail’ followed by a space and then details of the incident including time, date, location and route number to 83010.

Alternatively they can report online by logging on to the website or by telephoning police on 101 for bus and 0800 405040 for rail and Metro. In the case of an urgent crime or an emergency they should dial 999 as usual.

See Something Say Something has proved highly effective in recent years in providing the Safer Travel Partnership with the information it needs to pinpoint anti-social behaviour hot spots and mount effective police action.

Published 22nd November 2012