MTR photo 'sex crime' complaints increase on MTR

The number of women complaining that people have taken a compromising image of them on the railway increased by a third from 2011

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 February, 2013, 4:23am

The number of women complaining that someone has taken an upskirt photograph of them on the MTR increased by almost a third between 2011 and 2012, police say.

Reports of such cases rose from 78 in 2011 to 101 last year and indecent assaults on the MTR rose from 167 cases in 2011 to 197 last year - a rise of 30 per cent and 18 per cent.

The youngest victim of indecent assault was four years old.

Indecent assault is most likely to happen inside crowded compartments near exits because offenders can run away just as the doors are closing.

Upskirt photography happens most often on ascending escalators, where offenders stand below the victim on the escalator, according to police data.

The head of the railway police Henry Tam Chak-hong attributed the sharp rise in sexual crimes and indecent behaviour to the growing prevalence of smartphones, and the difficulty of catching multiple offenders.

"Often, victims are too ashamed to speak up, perhaps because they feel that they are partly to blame, which is not true, no matter what the victim is wearing," he said.

Hesitating to alert staff and police means the offender is likely to keep committing similar crimes, said Tam. "There are no security cameras inside most train compartments. They are only on concourses, and it's often so crowded that it's difficult to identify the offender," he said.

A survey of 387 women by the Rape Crisis Centre last year found that one in three women had been victims of sexual crime but that no one had alerted police.

The victims did not report the behaviour because they feared delaying the trains and felt that there was a low chance of catching the offenders.

But despite low reporting rates, police say victims and bystanders are increasingly working together to help catch offenders, and that arrest rates for crimes committed on the MTR are higher than arrest rates for crime in the city.

On Wednesday, the railway police gave awards to four good Samaritans who helped police arrest thieves and sexual offenders in 2012.

"I saw a man step in front of me on an escalator [in Nam Cheong station] and start filming underneath a young woman's skirt with his phone," said award recipient Tam Kwok-hung, 44.

"I alerted the victim at the top of the escalator and we both grabbed the man and shouted for help."

Another award winner, Liz Ho Ka-yee, 32, said: "I was with my husband and two daughters when I saw a man stand really close to a woman. I thought it was strange because they didn't seem like a couple. When I saw him put his hand in her bag … me and my husband grabbed the man and called for help."

"People are very brave," said Tam. "We see girls as young as 13 singlehandedly grabbing molesters to help police make the arrest."

MTR stations with the highest rates of crime include Mong Kok, Kowloon and Tsim Sha Tsui.