Case study: Transport for London sexual harassment campaign leads to 1,200 arrests

A 65 per cent uplift in reporting of unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport resulted from a TfL-led campaign to address the issue.

Report It To Stop It campaign has resulted in 1,200 arrests
Report It To Stop It campaign has resulted in 1,200 arrests

The 'Report It To Stop It' campaign has directly led to more than a thousand arrests of people who have sexually harassed others on the public transport network, according to TfL’s analysis of the programme. 

Launched in April 2015, the campaign has been rolled out in a series of stages that have encouraged people to report unwanted sexual behaviour, and reassured them it will be taken seriously. 

Under-reporting challenge 

The challenge arose following a 2013 survey by TfL, which revealed that 15 per cent of women had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport in London, such as groping, flashing, masturbation or sexual comments, yet 90 per cent of those women did not report incidents to the police. 

TfL joined forces with British Transport Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, and City of London Police to launch a joint initiative, Project Guardian, that would tackle that issue. 

Jenna Henshaw, head of media at TfL, said: "Taking an integrated approach to communications with our policing partners was really important for this campaign.

"It sends a strong message that we’re working together to target unwanted sexual behaviour and it’s not okay to feel uncomfortable on public transport, or anywhere." 

The hard-hitting Report It To Stop It campaign was a fundamental part of Project Guardian and initially included an interactive film targeted at women aged 16 to 35 years.

The film showed a realistic scenario of unwanted sexual behaviour on the Tube, and asked viewers whether they would report the behaviour they were watching. 

The one-minute film has had more than 25 million views on YouTube alone, as well as being shared on social media, while the campaign has also reached young people in a series of educational sessions in schools and universities. 

Meanwhile, in 2017, a new stage of the campaign was launched with a campaign video promoting the message Every Report Builds a Picture.

This element of the campaign aimed to help people understand why every report matters, in that each provides valuable information that can build up a picture to help catch offenders. 

Integrated channels 

The campaign used a mix of integrated channels including YouTube video and targeted social media, while press coverage was amplified by offering journalists the chance to film undercover police officers in action on the transport network. 

Case studies of people who had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour and reported their experience were also created to show that every report is taken seriously. 

Journalists were pre-briefed to understand that the measure of success was an increase in the number of reports to police, and they should expect to see that. 

Reach and engagement 

The campaign films and case studies have been watched more than 35 million times on YouTube, while there have been more than 200 pieces of media coverage about the Report It To Stop It campaign between April 2015 and November 2017.

Media outlets including the BBC, CH5 and ITV carried out filming of undercover operations on the transport network, as a way of sharing the campaign. 

"Report It To Stop It has the potential to change society – if everyone who experiences unwanted sexual behaviour reports it to the police, we can eliminate it," added Henshaw.

"By sharing case studies, successful prosecutions and talking about the issue, we’re showing that nobody should accept this degrading behaviour anymore." 

Meanwhile, Allison Potter-Drake, head of corporate communications at British Transport Police, said that Report It To Stop It has been one of the force's "most successful collaborative campaigns".

"Much of this has been due to the audience – that is people who have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour – being put at the heart of the campaign.

"The person reporting the crime is the number one priority and a joined-up communication campaign ensures that front line staff and officers are equipped with the best approach, no matter which organisation they work for."

The campaign is continuing to tackle the issue of unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport by asking victims to text what happened, when and where to 61016 or call 101.

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