Dealing with anti-social behaviour on buses and trains is a tough problem – but the West Midlands’ transport network is using a smartphone app so the public can act as its eyes and ears.
See Something, Say Something is offered by Centro, which co-ordinates the region’s bus, rail and tram services. It allows passengers to anonymously report low-level anti-social behaviour on the network.
“Obviously, we encourage people to use 999 in emergencies, but this is for soaking up all the other activity that blights passengers’ journeys,” says Reg New, Centro’s anti-social behaviour co-ordinator.
It’s part of a long-running wider campaign of the same name, run by Centro, West Midlands Police, British Transport Police and local bus operators. It supports a similar scheme which allows people to send text messages to report crime.
“Anti-social behaviour is down by 60 to 70 per cent over the past six or seven years, but perceptions haven’t yet met the reductions in crime,” he explains.
“Surveys say people still feel unsafe, and that’s because of anti-social behaviour.”
The app – created by mySociety – is based on the same mapping technology that powers FixMyStreet, which allows users to report fly-tipping, broken street lights and other issues.
With See Something, Say Something, users can select the type of behaviour they’ve seen or been a victim of. Reports then go into a system called React, based at Centro’s Birmingham headquarters, where staff can follow up by checking CCTV.
It works across buses, trains and Midland Metro trams, although it’s mostly publicised on buses and bus stations. 650 reports were filed in 2013, 40 per cent of which came via the app. Most reports are filed anonymously, those that aren’t get a response within five days.
The app launched in February 2013, and has been looked at by other transport organisations, including Transport for London.
The anonymous nature of the app means it’s hard to find out who’s using it, New concedes. But he adds: “You don’t want to stop people reporting because it’s too complicated.”