Public transport companies launch joint campaign against aggression towards staff

Belgium's public transport companies are calling for respect in a joint campaign. Last year, their employees were victims of physical and verbal aggression more than 5,500 times, an increase of 1.5 per cent compared to a year earlier. The operators are seeking further support from the police and judiciary to tackle the problem.

De Lijn, STIB, SNCB and TEC launched their campaign on Tuesday. In 2023, there were an average of 15 cases of aggression per day, or 5,598 reports a year. About a quarter of all cases of aggression involve physical violence. Other cases involve insults or threats. A total of 892 workers left their jobs as a result of an act of aggression.

The new campaign features 12 employees who have faced verbal or physical aggression. The companies want to show that their employees are more than just their jobs. Posters with photos of the employees will be displayed in stations and on vehicles.

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The four public transport operators say they already take a lot of measures to counter aggression. For instance, there is training for staff and the number of employees with a visible presence on the ground has increased. There is also a network of tens of thousands of surveillance cameras, whose images can be made available to the police.

People who do not comply with the rules risk an administrative fine, which can rise to 500 euros for repeat offenders. For the most serious violations, such as physical aggression or disrupting traffic, criminal prosecution is possible.

'Quick and severe punishment'

But more is needed, the companies say, and are calling on the police and justice system to thoroughly investigate any form of aggression their staff are confronted with and to punish the perpetrators quickly and severely.

In addition, they want a sufficient and visible presence of police to support their own security services, on public transport, at stations and stops and in the surrounding area.

Justice minister Paul Van Tigchelt, of Flemish liberals Open VLD, said that violence against public transport employees was unacceptable, but that the public prosecutor's office often encounters difficulties such as poor evidence or an unknown perpetrator. He called on victims and witnesses to contact the police in the event of aggresssion, file a complaint and hand over all evidence such as camera footage.



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