Saturday, April 20, 2024

Milestone for Victoria Police transit safety service

A Victoria Police-led service aimed at stamping out unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport has received more than 1,500 notifications in its first year.

STOPIT – a text-based notification service – launched on 11 July last year to combat sexual offending on public transport and give commuters greater confidence when they travel.

It’s the first service of its kind anywhere in Australia.

Victoria Police analysis shows more than 40% of notifications to STOPIT related to threatening and offensive behaviour such as verbal abuse and harassment.

Almost one in five notifications related to unwanted sexual behaviour, which includes catcalling, sexual gestures, non-consensual touching and flashing.

“Every piece of information received has helped us make the network a safer place for all commuters,” said Victoria Police Inspector Mark Zervaas, Transit Safety Division.

“Without STOPIT, more than a dozen investigations may have never been solved. These offenders have now been charged and put through the courts – all thanks to commuters who have stood up to this type of behaviour.

“We encourage all commuters to save the number in your phone and text STOPIT if you experience or see unwanted sexual behaviour on the network.

“Your information could be the final piece of the puzzle we need to arrest an offender.”

Since inception, STOPIT has led to 13 arrests.

This includes:

• A 20-year-old man who was charged after performing allegedly explicit acts towards five women on a number of train lines between March and August last year. Police were able to link the incidents after one victim used STOPIT.

• A 51-year-old male charged with sexual assault after allegedly making inappropriate sexual comments and touching a woman at Southern Cross Station on 23 December last year.

• A 24-year-old man who was charged after performing allegedly explicit acts and making inappropriate sexual comments towards a woman on a city-bound Werribee line train on 11 November last year.

• A 44-year-old man who was charged with two counts of sexual activity directed at another after boarding a train at Clayton Railway Station on 25 October last year. A commuter took a photo of the incident and sent it to police using STOPIT. Police then linked the offender to a second incident.

• A 33-year-old man charged after two witnesses saw him allegedly perform an explicit act towards a woman on a city-bound Sunbury line train on 6 September. Both witnesses notified police through STOPIT. The man was also charged with committing an indictable offence while on bail.

Victoria Police say a number of separate notifications remain under investigation by detectives.

Women and girls have made up more than half of people using STOPIT, with all notifications reviewed and assessed by a dedicated team of transit police. Many are then escalated to detectives at the Transit Crime Investigation Unit for investigation.

Information received also gives police a broader picture about behaviour across the public transport network, be it a particular train line or time of day.

To use the service commuters simply text ‘STOPIT’ to 0499 455 455.

For further information go to https://www.police.vic.gov.au/stopit.

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