A teenager’s 10-month campaign of criminal harassment and damage on trams has led to “more than 200 reports” to transport bosses. The behavior of a single 15-year-old alone tripled the number of incidents recorded at the Rochdale Interchange compared to the previous year.
Bosses say they were even pressured into hiring an outside security firm to ‘reassure’ staff and passengers about the behavior of the youngster, whose criminal record ranged from verbal abuse and harassment to criminal damage and port of weapons.
Other reports included breaking and entering, brakes on trams, and adventures on the bus interchange to “turn off the engines”. They sometimes acted alone, but also had “followers” as their behavior tended to “draw a crowd”. Some of the incidents happened late at night, prompting “backup” concerns.
READ MORE: ‘Do you know where your children are?’ Calling on parents as children as young as 11 increase in anti-social behavior on trams and buses
Kate Green, boss of TravelSafe, told the Manchester Evening News the “extreme” case was the “worst she had seen” on the network. It is also part of a larger picture that shows a sharp rise in antisocial behavior among young people across the board, which is believed to have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Meanwhile Chief Inspector Ronnie Neilson, who heads GMP’s transport unit, described the case – and a ‘chronic and acute’ increase in juvenile delinquency generally – as a ‘symptom and not a cause » a lack of engagement and supply to young people. It is now understood that the young person in question, who cannot be named because of his age, is receiving the support he needs to deal with his behaviour.
Kate Green described how the individual would “target” staff members for abuse. In some cases, passengers tried to intervene. She added: “One of the biggest concerns was the impact on staff who were there to do work and support people who were legitimately trying to use the network.”
Along with action by Metrolink, the police and the council, a dedicated security team has been hired to reassure staff and customers around this anti-social behavior in Rochdale for four months. the Manchester Evening News asked Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) how much it cost to hire the company, which is still used to help bosses solve problems across the network.
The bill for this exercise, including additional transport network security support at football matches, was £400,000.
Wide Range of Youth Crimes
The offender first came to the attention of police and Metrolink’s TravelSafe unit in December 2020 following a series of incidents around Rochdale. In January 2021, staff asked security officials to withdraw the teenager’s pass, but after consultation with police and local authorities, it was decided that they should receive an exclusion notice instead . This is a civil order prohibiting access to a specific site.
However, their behavior continued and in February a multi-agency meeting was held to discuss the case. Further incidents in March led to a ban from downtown Rochdale.
The following month the teenager was found in possession of the blades and, appearing in court in May, was given a youth rehabilitation order. The youngster was back on Metrolink the same day.
In June, the teenager’s behavior towards staff allegedly “escalated” and an undercover operation by the TravelSafe unit led to his arrest. On September 20, a judge sentenced the youngster on a series of charges – two of harassment, assaulting an emergency worker and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior.
They received a 15-month youth rehabilitation order, a 12-month restraining order and a 12-month criminal behavior order.
The CBO has included a ban on climbing, walking, crawling, hanging or being on the outside or on top of any building, street furniture or man-made structure anywhere in Greater Manchester unless it was not specifically designed for rock climbing, they have written permission from the owner and appropriate safety equipment is used. The order also prohibits them from riding on or off any bus or tram.
“It’s more complicated than young people who are out of control”, says a cop
Chief Inspector Neilson said the case raised big questions about young people and youth engagement in Greater Manchester.
“It’s more complicated than just ‘young people are out of control,’ he said. “We have to look at what young people can do? How do the partners engage and what changes need to be made to the offer for young people?
“At the end of the day, they’re young people, they make mistakes. It’s part of growing up and I don’t think the criminal justice system is the best fit for them and that larger issue needs to be addressed. explored.
“How do we meet complex social needs? Many antisocial behaviors are the result of problems at home or elsewhere. And that’s what we’re up against. It’s a question of what the best outcome is.
“Success isn’t stopping someone, success is putting a young person in a safe and secure environment and then they can continue to learn, grow and develop.
“What we face as a result is a lot of anti-social behavior and traditionally people want to see people arrested, but unfortunately that’s not a solution.”
Lucy Kennon, head of resilience and business continuity at TfGM, said juvenile delinquency was felt “at all levels”, while Kate Green, head of TravelSafe partnership at TfGM, said they had learned from the case and that they were now “much more nimble” when it came to offenses like this.
She said they could revoke passes, bar violators from trading, and ultimately seek to enforce civil injunctions. She added: “We will use all the tools at our disposal, while accepting that, especially with miners, we need local partners around the table to support us.”
The Oldham and Rochdale line suffered the most ‘high impact’ crime in 2021, with incidents including assaults, robberies and robberies. There was a 45% increase in youth and youth-related incidents. In 2019, incidents involving young people accounted for 24% of the total, rising to 35% in 2021.
The airport line has seen the biggest increase in youth-related incidents, up to 50% of all reports in 2021, up from 33% in 2019. Although considered ‘low level’ behavior on the part of from ‘very young’, these airport line incidents – including emergency door handle activations which rose from 40 in 2020 to 126 in 2021 – can have a major impact on tram traffic and on The passengers. In response, there is now a dedicated security team at the Wythenshawe Interchange.
As part of the security team brought in to respond to anti-social behaviour, a TfGM spokesperson said: “Due to the increasing problems of crime and anti-social behavior in Rochdale, we have sought to put in place a dedicated security team.
“This required increased resource levels and led us to move to a new security vendor. We now use this vendor as needed to support operations at the various interchanges and bus stations.”
You can read more Manchester Courts reports here