Ex-law enforcement officers deployed to tackle fare-dodgers on East Rail Line
Former law enforcement officers have been recruited to combat fare evasion at stations along the MTR East Rail Line, which has been plagued by gate jumpers and violence against railway staff.
The move comes as video clips circulate on the internet showing staff being attacked by passengers apprehended for fare evasion.
The new By-laws Inspection Unit of 25 uniformed staff with experience in security and crowd control, started work yesterday on six-month contracts. As well as fare evasion, they will be on the lookout for explosives and other dangerous goods in passengers' luggage, although police said the overall crime rate on the MTR was quite low last year.
Most of the inspectors are former police officers but some have worked for the Correctional Services Department. They will be deployed at stations such as Sheung Shui, Lo Wu, Fanling and Lok Ma Chau. Twenty retired Gurkha soldiers and 66 security guards have also been hired to further strengthen security.
'We believe that with the inspectors' past working experience in the disciplinary forces and expertise in security and crowd control, they will be able to work better with the police when handling a crisis,' MTR Corp deputy operations director Li Yun-tai said. There had been six attacks on MTR staff in the past three months and eight in the same period last year, he said.
About 3,975 ticket evasion cases were reported last month and 4,485 in February. More than 60 per cent were on the East Rail Line.
Mr Li said inspectors could 'stop passengers who may be acting suspiciously and demand to check their luggage if it is suspected they are carrying dangerous or explosive items'.
Inspectors would try to keep violent passengers on MTR premises and seek help from the police, he said.
Ticket gates with flaps in Lo Wu Station had been replaced with turnstiles to deter fare evaders and a new flow system for passengers had been introduced at the Sheung Shui station. 'Plans are also in hand to install more closed-circuit television cameras in Lo Wu and Sheung Shui stations,' Mr Li said.
The number of crimes reported in the MTR dropped to 864 last year from 899 the year before, said Ng Shan-ho, deputy district commander for the police railway district. That figure accounts for about 1 per cent of the total number of cases across the city.
There was a 30 per cent increase, however, in the number of incidents in which people have been found taking photos up women's skirts - from 117 cases last year against 88 the year before, with most of the offences taking place on escalators.
'Most of the cases were pickpocketing, assault, indecent assault, up-skirt photos and vandalism. Decreases were recorded for most crimes, except for up-skirt photos,' Mr Ng said.