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Sexual predators are using crowded trams and trains to "hone their skills" as offenders, as an increasing number of passengers report attacks while travelling on public transport in Melbourne.
Police said those who expose themselves or rub against passengers on public transport could become emboldened if they are not caught, and escalate their offending to serious sexual assaults and rape.
Trams that travel along St Kilda Road to Carlton through the Domain interchange are some of the worst routes for sex attacks, possibly because large groups of private school girls use these services, according to police.
"These are strangers who are ... predators," Inspector Karl Curran from the Transit and Safety Division said.
"And they target vulnerable people."
Detective Senior Sergeant Brian Montgomery from Transit CIU said police had spoken to students from schools based near tram routes that pass through the Domain interchange to give them advice about how to stay safe, and the best way to handle an offender.
Melbourne Girls Grammar, Wesley College, Korowa Anglican Girls' School and Lauriston Girls' School are some of the schools that can be accessed by trams that pass through the interchange.
"They use an opportune moment on crowded public transport to seek their gratification," Detective Senior Sergeant Montgomery said.
"It's a very difficult type of offence to investigate. If you can just imagine a crowded tram, multiple people standing holding on to a rail or a bar, you'll have some of these predators that intentionally brush up against a victim.
"The victim is uncomfortable, they know what's going on behind them, but they're not inclined to turn around and look at the person to get a description. They just know a person has been pushing up against them."
Victoria Police plan to implement a Sexual Offences and Child Abuse and Investigation Team as part of its Transit unit to tackle the rise in sex attacks.
It is believed an advertising campaign could also be introduced to encourage offences on public transport.
Attacks on trams and in taxis have become more frequent, but trains and train stations are the most common location for a sexual assault.
Offences such as rape are less common than sexual assault offences, which had been known as indecent assault before an overhaul of sexual offences legislation came into law on July 1.
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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