READ: Poorest communities are fast food hotspots, figures revealSpecial “Trojan bus” operations, where police officers in plain clothes ride along on bus services travelling through hotspot areas, have been targeting the problem which has been most prevalent in east and south Leeds.
Between the end of October and December last year there were 56 incidents of criminal damage involving First West Yorkshire services – an average of seven per week.
From January this year until the end of April there have been 49 incidents – an average of three per week.
The cost of vandalism to vehicles operating from the company’s Hunslet Park Depot has been around £70,000 over the last financial year.
Officers from Safer Travel and Leeds Anti-Social Behaviour Team - both part of the city’s community safety partnership Safer Leeds - have been working alongside First West Yorkshire and colleagues in local neighbourhood policing teams in the areas affected to target the issue.
In a series of operations using the Trojan Bus tactic, within the Inner East team’s area, a total of eight youths were caught and appropriate action was taken to address their behaviour.
To educate young people about the dangers and consequences, staff from First West Yorkshire have been working with local Safer Schools officers to deliver presentations targeting Year 7 and 8 pupils, who are the age group most likely to be involved.
Chief Inspector Nick Ireland, of Safer Leeds, said: “Criminal and anti-social behaviour, such as stone throwing, that affects bus services in Leeds is completely unacceptable and we remain committed to working closely alongside our partner agencies and the bus companies to keep public transport safe.
“These kinds of attacks, which have also affected taxis and private hire vehicles, not only present obvious dangers to the drivers, passengers and other road users but also affect communities while buses are out of action and services that people rely on are reduced or suspended.
“The recent operations that have taken place using the Trojan Bus tactic have led to a significant drop in the number of incidents and we hope the bus-using public will be reassured by that.
“While this is positive, we can’t afford to be complacent and we will continue to work alongside our partner agencies to identify and target those hotspot areas to deter any further offences.
“We will continue to work proactively to identify anyone involved in these types of offences and take appropriate action against them, making full use of all available measures.
“At the same time, we will continue to work with schools and other youth organisations to highlight how dangerous stone throwing incidents are and the wider consequences of this type of behaviour.”
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member with responsibility for Safer Leeds, said: “Throwing stones at buses is completely irresponsible and puts the safety and well-being of both passengers and drivers at serious risk. We simply will not tolerate this type of behaviour; our LASBT team have been working with the police in identifying a number of individuals involved.
“I hope this work sends out a clear message to anyone who may also be tempted to throw stones or indeed any object at a bus, that both the police and the council will not simply ignore it and are determined to take proactive steps to stop it.”
John Fielding, Staff Manager at First Leeds, said: “We’re grateful for the support of West Yorkshire Police officers with helping to reduce the number of incidents and acts of vandalism towards our vehicles. Thankfully, these incidents have not resulted in any serious injuries, but we need to continue this partnership to ensure we can put an end to these acts, for good.”