HAMPSHIRE’S train operator has launched a crackdown on crime and anti-social behaviour at stations across the south.

Southampton Central is one of ten in South Western Railway’s (SWR) new Station Watch Scheme, which aims to create a safer environment for passengers and staff.

Stations will see targeted patrols by rail community officers, advice sessions for passengers and a closer partnership with Network Rail and British Transport Police (BTP).

It follows a 17% rise in crimes committed on trains and platforms.

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In October BTP said officers across the country had recorded 61,159 offences in 2017-18, up from 52,235 during the previous 12 months.

Violent crime accounted for almost one in five cases and was up by 26%. Offences involving knives and other weapons went up by 46% and robberies by 53%.

But crime on the routes served by SWR has dropped in the past year.

Alessandro Finistrella, the company’s senior security and route crime manager, said: “Travelling by train is very safe and the number of crimes on our network has fallen by over 11% since March 2018.

“However, we are not complacent and are determined to drive down anti-social behaviour and criminality further. We all have a role to play in making the rail network safer and would ask everyone who uses it to support the Station Watch Scheme.”

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The stations included in the initial scheme are Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Clapham Junction, Guildford, Richmond, Southampton Central, Staines, Surbiton, Wimbledon and Woking.

Rail bosses say the project could be extended to embrace other parts of the south’s rail network, depending on the outcome of a review.

Paul Calvert, station manager for Clapham Junction and Guildford, said: “South Western Railway’s Station Watch scheme is a great initiative which will see our station teams working closer together for the benefit of passengers.”

Anyone who sees something suspicious can either approach a member of staff or contact BTP on 0800 40 50 40 or via text on 61016.