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 :
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.