WHEN London's tube trains start to run round the clock, what impact will the 24-hour operation make on late night crime in the Capital? It is an issue that that the University Huddersfield's Dr Andrew Newton - one of the world's leading authorities on crime and transit systems - is determined to research.
Meanwhile, he has made an appearance at a public meeting in London's City Hall, as a member of a panel of experts who discussed transport crime, including the implications of the all-night Tube. He was invited to take part by the London Assembly's Police and Crime Committee and the meeting was a live webcast.
This high profile event came just two days after Dr Newton - Reader in Applied Criminology at the University of Huddersfield and a researcher in transit crime since 1999 - had been in Brussels, contributing to a European Commission-backed conference dealing with security in land transport systems. He is also co-editor and author of a new book that has contributions from leading specialists around the world. Titled Safety and Security in Transit Environments, it has been hailed as an important contribution to its field.
Dr Newton's co-editor is Vania Ceccato, an Associate Professor at Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology. The two experts on transport criminology met at a 2013 seminar in Stockholm and made plans for the book, which has 20 chapters co-written by specialists from the UK, the USA, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Australia, South Africa and Japan. Intentionally, they belong to a wide variety of disciplines - not only transport and criminology, but also subjects such as architecture, civil engineering, geography, psychology and communications.
The book is structured in four parts, said Dr Newton - crime at transport hubs; the surrounding environment; what happens during journeys; and the experiences of people using transport systems. The book identifies key challenges and makes policy recommendations for crime prevention in the area of transportation.
Individual chapters cover topics such as pick-pocketing at bus stops and exaggerated fears of being assaulted when travelling - which could deter people from using public transport - and unsightly graffiti that could create a climate of fear and unease.
Dr Newton himself contributes a chapter that draws on his research into property theft on the London Underground. He has worked with both the British Transport Police (BTP) and Transport for London (TFL) on projects designed to reduce offending by identifying crime "hotspots" in and around the Tube network. He has presented his research as several key conferences and seminars and the invitation to participate in the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee event at City Hall was the latest result of the important links he has developed with the Capital's transport policy-makers.
Although delayed because of trade union objections, the project to run 24-hour tube trains is expected to come to fruition and it presents Dr Newton with an important new opportunity for research, which he aims to carry out with partners including TFL, BTP and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.
Dr Newton expects that all-night Underground trains will mean big changes in the nature of night-time travel in London and he is interested to see if it leads to any shifts in the nature of alcohol-related crime near night-tube stations and on the rest of the transport network.