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Fewer people are getting robbed on NSW trains, but assaults and sex offences are on the rise, new statistics show.
Rail passengers are more likely to become crime victims in regional areas than suburban ones, but crime levels on the rail system overall are very low, says Don Weatherburn, from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
"It's far worse out on the street," he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
"Only a fraction of crime incidents that occur actually happen on the rail system."
There are 0.3 incidents per 100,000 passenger journeys on trains across NSW, according to the Crime on the Rail System report released on Wednesday.
This figure takes in assault, stealing from a person, robbery, sexual assault and other sexual offences.
Over the past decade, the number of robberies on trains has dropped 11.4 per cent and stealing from a person has dropped 9.4 per cent.
Sexual offences have jumped 7.6 per cent and assaults have risen by 1.6 per cent.
The number of sexual assaults recorded on rail premises was too low to identify a trend, the report found.
Dr Weatherburn said crime on trains was "not as bad as many people think".
People have been looking at the raw numbers of cases instead of paying attention to the number of people using the rail system, Dr Weatherburn said.
"One thing I think people don't realise is the higher risks are actually in the regional areas than the urban areas," he added.
"What tends to get media attention is mostly stations that have large numbers of incidents, even if they have vast numbers of people using the rail system.
"Whereas a station like Maitland or Newcastle or one of the regional stations, which doesn't have a huge passenger utilisation compared with Sydney has a fairly large number of incidents."
Waratah station near Newcastle had the highest rate of incidents per 100,000 passenger interchanges in 2010 (3.2), followed by Warnervale on the Central Coast (2.5), Beresfield near Newcastle (2.3), Bomaderry on the south coast (2.3) and Fassifern on the central coast (1.7).
Risk of victimisation was highest overnight on weekends, while during weekdays it was highest between 3 and 6pm.
Nearly half of all victims were aged between 18 and 29, while less than 10 per cent were aged over 50, the report said.
Over 75 per cent of offenders were male.
The report shows the excellent job railway staff and police are doing to keep commuters safe, the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) said in a statement.
"It's worrying, however, to see that the rate of assault on the network is going up not down," said RTBU NSW branch secretary Alex Claassens.
"As long as commuters are getting assaulted on trains and at stations, they will continue to be worried about their safety."
Mr Claassens said an RTBU survey of 3,500 commuters found that 73 per cent felt there was not enough safety and security staff on public transport services, and 56 per cent did not feel safe travelling after dark.
The best way to combat crime on public transport was through a highly visible staff presence, Mr Claassens added.
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