Police are using facial recognition software to track down serial sex offenders harassing passengers on London’s Tube and rail network.
The head of British Transport Police said extra undercover officers were also being deployed to tackle a surge in the number of sex attacks on the Tube.
New figures show the number of sex attacks on the Underground and the Docklands Light Railway rose by 31 per cent last year. There were 429 assaults in 2013/14 compared to 327 in the previous year.
Chief constable Paul Crowther said part of the increase was due to more people coming forward following the Jimmy Savile scandal while police were also encouraging more victims to report crime.
The police chief, who was appointed in March, said his force had launched Operation Guardian to tackle the problem and increase people’s confidence in coming forward to report attacks.
He said: “We are determined to make a big impact on this crime. We are specifically tackling sex offences on the Tube where some women are reporting they are being harassed on a day to day basis.
“We have plain clothes officers on the network catching people in the act while we are using new techniques such as facial recognition technology to identify those people who think they can carry out these crimes without detection because they are in a crowded carriage and they think they are anonymous.”
He added: “We are particularly interested in offences which are often unreported such as sexual assault, exposure, lewd comments and harassment.”
Around one in four of sex attackers on the Tube are caught but police are now using a new CCTV centre at Victoria with access to 55,000 cameras to help tackle the crime.
Detectives are also using Twitter and Facebook to trace offenders – in one case they received 1,800 pieces of information from people replying to a single image on social media.
Mr Crowther said some crimes were now being solved entirely by appeals on social media.
He said: “People think they can carry out stealth crimes, whether that is sex offences or pickpocketing, and not be detected but the power of social media and new technologies such as facial recognition are very powerful new crime fighting tools.”
In June this year a man who admitted four sex assaults on women on Tube trains over a 15 month period was jailed for 12 months.
Lloyd Weekes, 52, of Finsbury Park was sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court after pleading guilty to four counts of sexual assault, and one of resisting a police officer.
New figures show crime overall on the Underground fell slightly last year and Mr Crowther says there are just eight offences recorded per million passengers on the Tube and DLR.
Crime on the Uk railways fell for the tenth year in a row.
However, the total number of violent offences on the Tube jumped by 9.5 per cent to a total of 2,077 last year while there were also big rises in cases of violent incidents on trains in the capital.
These included rises in the number of incidents of racially aggravated harassment – up by more than 27 per cent to a total of 397 cases last year – assaults on police and possession of ‘firearms’. The number of actual assaults on the Tube fell.
Police say more people are coming forward to report cases of verbal racist attacks.
There were significant falls in the number of theft offences – particularly pickpocketing – on the trains and on the Tube network after police launched Operation Magnum last year which alerted passengers to the tricks used by thieves.
On the Underground there was a significant 34 per cent reduction in the number of pickpocketing offences down from 16 a day to 11 a day.
The number of people caught in possession of drugs jumped by 52 per cent to a total of 892.
There were also significant falls in cable theft across the Tube and rail network – the number of cases across the UK was down by 37 per cent.