6.1 Suicide patrols

This measure refers to visible surveillance (patrols with clearly visible uniforms) to deter access to high risk areas and to intervene when potential suicide attempts are identified. These patrols are primarily safety oriented and less security oriented. The measure is aimed for situations where the presence of people might deter suicides or incidents in which there is time to identify a risk and intervene before the incident occurs.
  • Visibility of patrols is a key issue of a preventive strategy. Plain clothes should not be used by security and cleaning staff.
  • It is preferred to do surveillance by foot rather than by car. This gives a more preventive effect.
  • When surveillance is done by car, mark the cars with text as ‘Rail Surveillance’. Make them visible as much as possible.
  • If the patrols are continuously on duty the effect on prevention is sustainable. If they stop the effect lasts no more than a few months.
  • When surveillance is done at night the effectiveness rises when they are given night sight camera’s (e.g. FLIR  ). Night sight will be increased to about 500 to 750 meters.
  • Suicide patrols can be implemented independent of other measures. It is important that they are well informed using other methods, analysis, measures. Knowledge about hotspots and the behaviour of suicidals can enhance the effectiveness. Patrols should be trained to look for and recognize examples of suspicious behaviour on particular parts of stations (e.g. platform ends).
  • On special circumstances, such as music festivals etc., when you know that there will be a lot of people, it is important that you use this as a temporary measure.
  • The ratio of surveilling persons per targeted areas has to be considered. The higher this ratio, the better.
  • Security patrols’ intervention can be effective when it is targeted and based on information.
  • Do not forget that there are also many other railway workers which can help you to identify and address people that do not belong at railway premises. Raise their awareness on the impact of trespassers and suicide. For example, you may contact all of the train operators who use the route, and ask them to give some space on their intranet sites or in their staff magazines to ensure that everyone knows what is being done, why it is being done, and how they can make sure it has the best chance of success.
  • Means of communication increase effectiveness. Besides mobile phones, other ICT technologies can be implemented: tablets/ handheld PC’s for storage, uploading images, reports, logging in on cameras when on patrol etc. Effective use of CCTV   could help to support this type of scheme.
  • Incident reduction on hotspot where surveillance is regularly performed is at least 27% (Evaluation on security patrols, 2006)
  • A study conducted in the subway network of Vienna showed that the presence of a surveillance unit had a negative effect on both suicide rate and suicide attempt rate (crude rate ratio for railway suicide = 1.65; crude rate ratio for railway suicide attempt = 1.93) (Niederkrotenthaler et al., 2012).
  • Plain-clothed transit and police officers resulted in a 40% reduction in the number of incidents and an estimated saving of UK $10,000 per week (Thompson et al., 2012).
  • Implementation in the Cape Town rail system has done little to reduce injury rates (Lerer & Matzopoulos, 1996).

last update: 2019-07-17 Print