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Hong Kong - MTR

Crime prevention measures
The factors contributing to the extremely low crime rates in the MTR system of Hong Kong have been studied by Gaylord & Galliher (1991). The conclusion of this research was that the low crime rates in the MTR system are the result of the nature of Hong Kong society (in which criminal occurrence is a rare occasion), the efficiency of the Mass Transit Railway Police of Hong Kong, and the cunning design and planning of both the trains and stations which are built with high consideration towards the limitation of criminal opportunity.

From the outset, the MTR took advantage of the crime preven­tion lessons learned by other existing metro systems. A senior police officer visited the metro systems of London, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Toronto. His observations were translated into design requirements and passed on to the system designers. Concepts were introduced to design the MTR system in a way that criminal opportunity was limited to an absolute minimum and police activities were facilitated.

The MTR system is designed with maximum consideration towards the facilitation of policing. Hong Kong police officers were involved in the MTR project from an early stage. Officers were given key roles in formulating crime prevention requirements as well as in writing safety and policing procedures. As early as 1973, the Royal Hong Kong Police Force was officially given responsibility for system policing, maintenance of public order in the MTR, and the prevention and detection of criminal occurrences. At this moment, the MTR system is probably one of the most heavily policed metro systems in the world. The MTR Police District is also trained and organised to react effectively and swiftly. All police officers are thoroughly trained in crowd and riot control procedures. In cases of a passenger’s calls for assistance, police officers are at the scene within 90 seconds of notification or just over three minutes when the officer must be brought from another station.

According to Gaylord & Galliher (1991), a number of design principles which were suggested by the Hong Kong police in the initial planning stage of the MTR has enabled the limitation of criminal opportunity and facilitation of efficient policing :

  1. Good police communications. Every MTR police officer carries a walkie-talkie which is effective in all parts of the system. During tunnelling work, leaky coaxial cables were installed in the tunnels, making walkie-talkies operational even on the trains. Each station is equipped with a high number of CCTV cameras. This together with automatic computer identification and location determination of police officers that call in, enables personnel in the highly sophisticated police Command and Control Centre to direct police officers to the scene of an emergency, often in less than 90 seconds.
  2. Stations and trains are designed to promote visibility and easy observation. Much effort is put into designing large, open platforms and wide passenger tunnels. Adequate lighting levels are applied throughout the system and convex mirrors are placed at otherwise blind corners. The most revolutionary crime prevention measure in Hong Kong was, however, the introduction of a new type of train. The trains are not a string of compartalized separated cars, but are linked by interior gangways. Passengers and police can walk freely between cars, muggers are not able to isolate victims, and the Fire Service finds the trains safer because they facilitate rapid intervention of firefighters and a swift evacuation of passengers. Surveillance of the vehicle over its entire length and at any point is made easy. The coupling which connects each car has a slight raise in the floor enabling police officers to stand on it and look the entire train over above the heads of the passengers.
  3. Station entrances are limited and can easily be closed off and controlled by police officers. This enables the police to catch almost every suspect who is in the metro system.
  4. Fare evasion, loitering, and (risky) cash transactions are significantly reduced by the introduction of electronic ticket machines that accept exact fares only. Oneway and round trip tickets are only valid on the day of issue and contain a time limit of ninety minutes. Passengers who loiter too long or try to leave the Paid Area with a ticket bought for less than the journey's fare are automatically directed to the Excess Fare Office. Loitering is treated as a by-law offense and met with a fine.
  5. The MTR system is built to act as a 'physical policeman'. The combination of the high-tech Command and Control Centre, CCTV, public address system and response microphones enables the physical police officer to "see, talk, hear and apprehend just as a human police officer can. The system can also be used to direct passengers and police patrols when necessary" (Gaylord & Galliher; p. 22). Suspects can be trapped in the closed system and passenger flows can be directed and controlled. The physical layout of the system is built with high consideration towards crowd control techniques. Optimum passenger concentrations are maintained by adjusting escalator speeds, numbers of station platforms, entrances and lengths of trains. The layout directs passenger flows swiftly to their destinations, maintains a fast pace, and discourages loitering.
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Source: López, M.J.J., Crime Prevention Guidelines for the Construction & Management of Metro Systems, Den Haag: RCM-advies 1996, pg. 32-35.

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