BTP patrols (overt and covert)

Uniformed BTP officers or plain clothed BTP officers patrolling trespass hotspots.

These measures can work in different ways as a result of their visible presence or the knowledge of covert patrols in an area can act as a deterrent.  These can reduce the attractiveness of the railway as a place for trespass, direct and support correct behaviour, as well as influence behaviour when people are in place of risk.  Patrols in an area of risk can enable early warning of risk and response by the industry.

At a specific station, crossing or other location where there may be an existing problem.

By whom? - BTP staff.

Applicability / suitability for trespass types

Where there is an established problem at a location or group of locations and uniformed police presence may influence some of the behaviour at the location or covert police presence may enable sanctions for people involved in trespass. 

Trespasser type = All.

Trespass events = Unintentional, convenience, fare evasion, anti-social behaviour, graffiti, hangout, recreation, theft.

Observed behaviours = Dropping items, exiting the platform from the platform end, crossing track, damage to facilities / equipment, signs of drug use, seen on disused platforms, dangling legs over platform, playing with equipment.

Potential Motivations = Various.


Medium/high effectiveness

Several studies indicate uniformed patrols can be an effective deterrent against different forms of trespass, such as at level crossings and to deter graffiti. There has been feedback from focus groups that they believe uniformed patrols are a strong deterrent.

Visible, uniformed authority figures can also make people feel safer.

Knowing that people have been apprehended by covert officials has been shown to be an effective deterrent.

One study found covert patrols were effective in reducing vandalism by 40%.

Potential for an immediate impact from uniformed patrols. Knowledge about convictions may take time to emerge and provide a deterrent effect.

Will need sustained efforts to ensure any effect is maintained.  The appropriate frequency of visits to the location will need to be established.

Factors influencing effectiveness

Visible presence at regular intervals, targeting the correct areas at the correct time.

Appropriate use of sanctions.  The act of apprehension (e.g. embarrassment) is seen as more concerning than the sanction that might accompany it. The threat of apprehension may be a strong deterrent.  The threat of being caught has to be perceived as real for it to have an effect.

Regular, visible activities (e.g. ticket checks to reduce fare evasion, monitoring of exit points and areas of risk), because people learn they may get caught. 

Covert patrols can become a deterrent when combined with education, media campaigns and sanctions, informing people that covert police are working in the area.

How to apply or implement, including dependencies

Collecting data on areas that are experiencing trespass (time of day, day of week and what months of the year) to ensure that patrols target the correct areas at the correct time.  This might be peak hours for some types of trespass (e.g. fare evasion, crossing tracks to unauthorised exits) or other times (e.g. for theft, graffiti or damage at more isolated times).

May be enhanced if combined with education and awareness raising (i.e. posters) to alert people that patrols (whether overt or covert) are used and the illegality of trespass on railway property.

Dependent on BTP officers being available.

Particularly useful deterrent if there is a big event (sporting event, concert, festival) taking place nearby.



To be most effective patrols need regular visible presence.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for?
Get in touch with our Senior Safety Intelligence Analyst for further information.
Siona Vass
Tel: 020 3142 5485
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