West Midlands Safer Travel Police are catching more and more offenders using DNA from “spit kits”.
West Midlands bus drivers have been given mini DNA kits to help police track anyone who spits at them or their passengers.
The kits are proving to be increasingly effective at identifying offenders and getting them in front of the courts.
In March this year, 33-year-old Leon Boyle spat at a bus driver before making his escape. DNA samples were taken from the driver’s exposed arm and trousers.
Boyle later appeared before Birmingham Magistrates Court for spitting and other offences. He has been jailed for 35 weeks and fined £150.
So far this year 50 spitting incidents towards a member of staff have been reported in the West Midlands.
The spit kits – which feature swabs, gloves and sealed bags – allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before sending them for forensic analysis.
If the suspect is not on police computers, their DNA is kept on the National Database for ever. The case will be resurrected if the suspect is later arrested.
Earlier this year, a bus driver was forced to speak to a number of rowdy teenagers on the bus about their behaviour. One of the teenagers later spat in the driver’s face before getting off the bus.
Spit samples were taken from the driver’s clothes and the steering wheel and sent off for forensic analysis. The DNA was compared with more than six million DNA profiles on the National Database. However, there was no match.
Two months later, a 13-year-old boy was arrested for an unrelated incident. As the DNA had previously been filed on a database, officers found a match with the DNA for the spitting offence to the National Express bus driver. This situation was resolved locally.
PC Shaun Hickinbottom, the Investigation Officer for Safer Travel said: “Spitting is a disgusting, despicable offence. Drivers and passengers should not be expected to tolerate it on our bus routes.
“Spitting at someone leaves a trail of DNA behind and these spit kit devices allow us to obtain irrefutable DNA evidence which help us track down offenders and secure convictions at court.
“This is a criminal offence and we will deal with this seriously. We have had cases of offenders being handed short jail sentences after spitting at passengers or bus staff.”
Tom Stables, managing director of National Express West Midlands, said: "My staff have the absolute right to work without being spat on. We will pursue anyone who is guilty of this revolting behaviour. These DNA kits mean we can help Safer Travel Police track these people down, stop them and make sure they face justice."
The Safer Travel Partnership stressed that spitting would be dealt with as a criminal offence, but also urged passengers to help tackle non-criminal nuisance behaviour by using the See Something Say Something campaign.
Passengers who witness anti-social behaviour during their journey can say something anonymously by texting the word ‘bus’, ‘metro’ or ‘rail’ followed by a space and then details of the incident including time, date, location and route number to 83010.
Alternatively they can report online by logging on to the www.safertravel.info website or by telephoning police on 101 for bus and 0800 405040 for rail and Metro. In the case of an urgent crime or an emergency they should dial 999 as usual.