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Police in Runcorn are working alongside local bus company Arriva to crackdown on anti-social behaviour (ASB) on bus routes in the town.
The initiative, led by Cheshire Police, aims to deter anti-social behaviour and criminal damage being committed while also providing reassurance to local residents.
The action comes in response to reports of 17 incidents on the transport network this year so far.
Some of the incidents have included windows being smashed, seats being burnt, and even an assault on a passenger.
The incidents have resulted in key bus services being curtailed and more than £4000 worth of damage.
In a bid to tackle the issues, plain clothed officers will be patrolling key routes that have been identified as ASB hotspots to keep passengers and drivers safe as well as taking necessary action against those causing the disruption.
Three people have already been arrested on suspicion of various offences as part of the ongoing crackdown.
Officers will also be applying Selecta DNA to items such as glass hammers and emergency stop buttons on routes which have previously been targeted by offenders.
Selecta DNA is a unique DNA Identifier that will enable officers to identify those who attempt to cause criminal damage on the buses swiftly and effectively.
Inspector Daniel Haddock, of Runcorn Local Policing Unit (LPU), said: “Our aim is to reassure the public that officers are out and about regularly patrolling the bus routes in Runcorn, with a particular focus on services within the Murdishaw area.
“Our officers will be hidden in plain sight and will be ready to act if anyone intent on causing harm to the public and ensure that they are removed and robustly dealt with.
“Although you may not be aware of their presence, they will be ready to disrupt any issues that arise on the routes that have been impacted by incidents of anti-social or nuisance behaviour in the past.”
Inspector Haddock added: “I know there are members of the community who rely on buses as an essential form of transport, and they deserve to feel safe on their journey.
“While we are committed to doing all we can to tackle these incidents, it’s essential that the community play their part, as they are the ones who will suffer the most if the bus routes are cancelled.
“I would urge parents in the local area to check where your children are and ensure that they understand how greatly this behaviour could impact those who rely on bus services most and the wider impact on not only themselves but their families if they were to be causing the trouble.
“I would also like to ask anyone who has witnessed any of the behaviour, or anyone who knows the people responsible, to contact us on 101 or report it via our website so that we can ensure they are held accountable for their actions.”
Peter Sass, Head of Operations at Arriva Buses said: “In recent weeks, we have experienced a number of antisocial incidents across our Runcorn service routes and these have led to difficult but necessary decisions being made on some services being temporarily removed from the area.
“Furthermore, our on-board CCTV has been downloaded to aid the Police in their investigations and subsequent prosecutions of antisocial behaviour perpetrators.
“We’re proudly working in partnership with Cheshire Police, to seek a resolution to issues as quickly as possible, for the benefit of our staff, our customers and our communities.”
Mike Amesbury, MP for Weaver Vale, whose constituency includes East Runcorn, said: “I’m deeply concerned to hear about anti-social and criminal behaviour on and around buses in the Murdishaw area of Runcorn.
“This is completely unacceptable and, in some cases, highly dangerous and illegal. Drivers and passengers should not have to tolerate such conduct, which also puts the future of our vital bus services in jeopardy.
“This issue involves a small minority. I would like to make a plea to families and the community to help keep our young people on the right track. That is a collective responsibility we all share.”
Anyone with information on ASB in their area can report it to Cheshire Police via the website.