Anti-social behaviour on public transport: safety measures

Protecting staff, passengers and property on public transport: police roles, CCTV and witness evidence use, tools to restrict anti-social acts


If you operate or provide public transport - or are a security business connected with these services - you need to ensure the safety of staff and passengers.

You also need to protect property and equipment from criminal damage. In addition you may need to deal with the fear of crime which may prevent the public from using your transport services.

Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour on public transport

If you’re an operator or provider of public transport, you have a legal duty to promote safety at work and this includes appropriate measures to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. You need to draw up safety policies and procedures for staff, passengers, vehicles and work places.

You should provide staff training in how to:

  • take practical steps to help prevent crime and disorder
  • tackle difficult situations calmly
  • report incidents
  • collect evidence

To make sure the training is effective, it should be monitored and reviewed.

You need to provide care for staff who have suffered abuse or violence, and advice for staff who may be required to give witness statements in court.

You can reassure your passengers by displaying notices about your safety policies and how you will deal with incidents. The notices can also tell them what they can do to keep their journeys safe.

You can both give and get assistance in tackling crime and anti-social behaviour by contacting your local authority’s anti-social behaviour team and your local crime and disorder reduction partnership. Both organisations can inform you of issues and measures already in place in the wider community. This may be helpful when dealing with anti-social behaviour and crime committed on or around public transport.

Practical safety measures

You should carry out risk assessments to help you understand where and when incidents are most likely to occur. You can also work with your local police Crime Prevention Design Advisor to help reduce the opportunities for crime being committed at stations and stops.

If you manage a railway station, you can seek Secure Stations Scheme accreditation. See the guide on Secure Stations Scheme accreditation for rail operators.

You can help ensure that your vehicles and premises are safe, by having:

  • secure cash boxes
  • CCTV fitted in bus and railway stations, shelters and vehicles
  • screens installed to protect drivers from assault
  • DNA kits to identify offenders who spit at staff

Front line staff (those that have contact with customers) should have:

  • a two-way radio or other means to contact an appropriate person in case of emergency
  • appropriate communication channels to report all incidents of abuse
  • a secure system for keeping this information, so it can be used as evidence to support applications for an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) or other banning order on persistent trouble-makers
  • appropriate training and powers to carry out their job

Young people and anti-social behaviour on public transport

Young people who are disruptive on public transport can create tensions and problematic journeys for both transport providers and other passengers. It can be difficult to find the appropriate response to challenging behaviour from young people, especially in groups. Their actions may sometimes be boisterous rather than anti-social, but this can lead to more serious actions, such as bullying or theft.

If you are an operator or provider of public transport, it is important to provide appropriate support and training for drivers and other front line staff who will need to respond to such behaviour.

‘The school run’

A particular potential flashpoint between young people and front line staff is on the journeys to and from school, particularly when travelling by bus. Your company should have a clear and coherent policy on how issues involving poor behaviour by school pupils should be handled. Help should also be sought from the schools involved and the local Passenger Transport Executive, if applicable.

Download the school run training programme for bus drivers from the UK government web archive.

Bullying on journeys

The bullying of young people can have serious, long-term effects on the victims. Public transport operators are just one of a number of organisations who can play their part in tackling bullying on journeys.

Young people and the law

The law regards a child of 10 as responsible for a crime they have knowingly committed, and they can be issued with an ASBO. From the age of 14, young people are considered fully responsible for their actions. From the age of 17, serious offences are handled by the youth courts, and imprisonment is used only as a last resort.

How the police tackle anti-social behaviour on public transport

The local police tackle public order offences on bus, coach and taxi services. The British Transport Police (BTP) deal with disorder on railway and certain tram services.

The BTP, which is organised nationally in seven regions, provides police services on the national rail network, London Underground system, Docklands Light Railway, Midland Metro tram system, Croydon Tramlink and Glasgow Subway.

The local police and the BTP have officers with full powers and support officers with lesser powers. The local police also have part-time volunteer special constables who may be used to control public disorder.

The BTP, local Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and local police special constables allow for an increased police presence. Their powers vary. Accredited persons on the staff of transport and private security companies also have limited policing powers.

Full police and special constables have the power of arrest and investigation and can present evidence in court.

BTP and local PCSOs can detain offenders for up to 30 minutes until a police officer arrives or can accompany them to a police station if the offenders agree. PCSOs can remove offending articles such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco. They can also issue penalty notice fines under certain circumstances, note the identity and addresses of offenders, and photograph them.

Police make use of banning orders such as ASBOs, and fines issued through penalty notices to keep lesser offences out of the court system. This saves the courts’ time and the offences are dealt with quicker.

Court cases

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) works with the local police and BTP on criminal cases, deciding whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute and if so, preparing it for court. The CPS provides information on the prosecution process and gives support for victims and witnesses.

The CPS has specialist prosecutors for anti-social behaviour. Part of their role is to consult with residents and businesses to understand the impact of anti-social behaviour and the public interest that needs to be taken into consideration in court.

The role of accredited persons in tackling anti-social behaviour on public transport

There are a range of staffing options that public transport operators can use to tackle anti-social behaviour. Staff will need to be given the necessary training, powers and authority to fulfil their role’s objectives.

Under the Community Safety Accreditation Schemes and Railway Safety Accreditation Scheme, the police grant limited policing powers to accredited persons in specific work circumstances. Staff of private security firms, railway and other transport operators can apply for accreditation.

They may be given some or all of the following powers to:

  • stop members of the public who conduct anti-social behaviour
  • remove offending articles - such as alcohol and fireworks
  • collect information regarding an offender’s identity and address
  • issue penalty notices for disorder for specific offences
  • issue fines in fixed penalty notices
  • photograph an offender to whom they have issued a penalty notice

Railway and tram operators and related security firms should apply to the BTP. Other transport operators and their security firms should apply to the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme manager of their local police authority.

All accredited persons are given initial training and refresher courses by the police. You will need to pay a fee for this, and for the initial accreditation.

Use CCTV to deter anti-social behaviour on public transport

Installing CCTV (closed circuit television) equipment on the public transport network can deter crime and anti-social behaviour. It can also make passengers feel safer and, therefore, more likely to travel.

If you are responsible for CCTV monitoring, you are required by law to display notices that you have CCTV in operation.

CCTV recordings may produce evidence against offenders. It is important not only that the CCTV image is clear, but also that the series of images shows that it was the suspect who committed the offence. However, if you fail to comply with the Data Protection Act (DPA), the evidence you have collected will be invalid and you could face prosecution. You need to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of:

  • the purposes for which you will use CCTV
  • your procedures for recording, managing and storing the data
  • your restrictions on the disclosure of data to other organisations, for example to the police in order to investigate a crime
  • restrictions on keeping data for the minimum time appropriate to its purpose
  • the person responsible for managing the data
  • a schedule of regular checks to ensure that your procedures are being carried out correctly

You must ensure that your equipment is well maintained and sited in sufficient light to produce clear images. You also need to check that the date and time are recording correctly.

Sound recordings

Most sound recordings are unlikely to be justified under the DPA. Exceptions include recordings triggered by a panic button in response to a specific threat in a taxi or other vehicle, or by sudden shouting and calls for assistance. Even so, recording conversations is usually illegal.

You need to ensure that your staff are well trained in what can and cannot be used from recordings and that they apply your procedures without fail.

How public order offences are categorised under the law

Public order offences, which vary from littering to violence, include crimes and anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is defined in law as behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm and distress to others.

Violent and threatening behaviour

The Public Order Act 1986 sets out the most serious disorder offences. Penalties for most of these include imprisonment and/or fines. The Act defines the different offences:

  • riot - the use or threat of violence against people or property by 12 or more people with a common purpose
  • violent disorder - the use or threat of violence against people or property by three or more people
  • affray - the use or threat of violence by one person against others
  • fear or provocation of violence - threatening or abusive behaviour or written or visual signs which cause people to fear an immediate act of violence, or which provoke them to violence
  • harassment - threatening or abusive behaviour or written and visual signs causing a person or people alarm or distress

The Public Order Act also covers exclusion orders against trouble makers from football venues and public transport.

The Criminal Damage Act 1971 covers:

  • criminal damage to property
  • criminal damage with intent to endanger life

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 protects those that have suffered harassment on at least two occasions or more.

Lesser offences

The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 sets out ten offences, for which fines, or Penalty Notice for Disorder (PND), can be issued. These offences are:

  • being drunk in a public place
  • throwing fireworks
  • knowingly making false alarm calls to the fire brigade
  • trespassing on the railway
  • throwing stones at trains
  • buying alcohol when under the age of 18
  • wasting police time
  • disorderly behaviour while drunk
  • consuming alcohol in a designated public place
  • using public telephones to send messages known to be false or to cause alarm

The Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 sets the lower age limit for PNDs at 16 years, while smaller fines can be issued in Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to young people from the age of ten.

FPNs can be used for offences such as:

  • littering
  • graffiti
  • noise nuisance

The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 sets out the conditions for ASBOs.

The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 sets out the conditions for drinking banning orders and alcohol exclusion zones.

The Vagrancy Act 1884 sets penalties for begging and sleeping rough in public places, including public transport.

The Railways Act 2005 allows railway operators to make bye-laws concerning unacceptable behaviour such as:

  • carrying potentially dangerous items
  • being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol
  • being improperly dressed
  • abusive behaviour or damaging property
  • busking or selling
  • unauthorised access and loitering

Using public transport staff or passengers as witnesses

In many cases the presence of good CCTV images reduces and prevents the need for staff to attend court as witnesses. Statements are required to verify the CCTV evidence, but staff do not necessarily have to attend court.

Witness and victim statements need to be free of ambiguity, and the victim or witness must be able to withstand cross examination. This is particularly important in identification cases. It is good practice for the employer to provide support to staff who have to give evidence, both before and during the event.

As an operator, you should develop a template or ‘form of words’ - or both - for impact statements. These statements can be presented in court to demonstrate the full effect of the crime on their passengers, staff and business operation, and assist in securing sentences that ‘fit the crime’. This should include the impact that the crime has - not just on the victim, but on any witnesses - and the consequences that this has for people’s overall perceptions of security on public transport.

Operators need to be very precise and specific in their claims for damages and costs, and magistrates may respond appropriately to accurate costs relating to the actual damage incurred.

You should also present the costs of the incident to the court in the context of the overall costs to their operation, eg the cost of a broken window and the cost of repairing all broken windows in the course of the year. This will convey the scale of the problem.

The DfT has prepared an incident reporting form for crimes committed on buses, and at bus stations and shelters. This can be adapted for operators of other modes of transport.

Download an incident reporting form for crimes on buses and at bus stations and shelters from the DfT website. (PDF, 26KB)

Using fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorders on public transport

The aim of penalty notices or on-the-spot fines is to punish offenders more rapidly and keep lower-level anti-social behaviour offences out of the courts.

If someone with a criminal record has committed an offence, they cannot be issued with a penalty notice. They must be referred to the police and the courts instead.

If you operate or provide public transport, it’s important for you to know who can issue penalty notices, and ensure that your staff know how to use this type of action against crime and anti-social behaviour.

Penalty notices are usually issued by the local police and BTP. In some areas police community safety officers and accredited persons can also issue these notices.

You can ask your local authority anti-social behaviour team or your local police authority who is allowed to issue these fines in your area.

Fixed penalty notices can be issued to anyone over ten years old. They are used mostly for offences related to the environment, such as littering, fly posting or noise.

Penalty notices for disorder can be issued to anyone over 16 years old for more serious offences, such as throwing fireworks, harassment or being drunk and disorderly.

Using ASBOs, banning and dispersal orders on public transport

Banning orders - which include ASBOs and dispersal orders - are issued by the courts for specific trouble-makers and places where disorder has been significant and persistent. Places can include bus stops, bus and railway stations, and taxi ranks.

They are used when penalty notices, community action and warnings have failed to have sufficient effect.

If you operate or provide public transport, you can keep up to date on the banning orders currently in place through your local authority anti-social behaviour team. You can also help them to be more effective in their work by monitoring breaches and informing them or the police.


An ASBO is aimed at protecting the public from further anti-social behaviour from an individual aged 10 years and over. It bans the person from repeating the offending behaviour, or entering a set area and lasts for a minimum of 2 years. An ASBO is not punishment for a crime, but breaking it is a criminal offence.

ASBOs are court orders applied for by:

  • local authorities
  • police forces, including BTP
  • registered social landlords
  • Transport for London

As a public transport provider, you cannot apply for an ASBO but you can collect evidence and ask your local authority and the police to do so.

Banning and dispersal orders

Banning orders target disorderly individuals, groups and activities in specific places, which can include transport venues and vehicles. They are usually issued by magistrates’ courts following applications by the police.

Banning orders against individual persistent trouble-makers include:

  • ASBOs
  • drinking banning orders
  • football banning orders

Banning orders against groups can include specific football supporters and public processions likely to give rise to public disorder.

Alcohol exclusion areas operate in zones where binge drinking has caused persistent problems.

Dispersal orders allow the police powers to break up groups who commit anti-social behaviour offences or crimes in designated areas. Dispersal orders do not ban these groups from entering those areas.

Further information

Home Office Anti-Social Behaviour Action Line

0870 220 2000

DfT Enquiry helpdesk

0300 330 3000

Published 9 October 2012