Every day, at least two Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company (STIB) workers are assaulted while on duty, according to information presented to the Brussels Parliament Mobility Committee on 19 April.
As many as 736 attacks against members of STIB staff were recorded in 2021, including 111 cases of physical violence and 652 cases of verbal abuse. Physical attacks were most commonly suffered by station security personnel and bus and tram drivers. Most instances of verbal abuse were also directed toward vehicle drivers.
Out of a total of 274 million journeys carried out across the whole transit system in the Brussels region, 1,475 attacks were reported against both staff and passengers in 2021.
Unfortunately, these attacks are part of a wider trend in growing violence directed towards transport workers.
While the total number of attacks is down compared to 2018-2019, when attacks reached up to 964 per year, the decrease is not proportional to the total drop of traffic on the network caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The assaults have risen faster than the number of passengers, that’s what worries us,” said STIB spokesperson Françoise Ledune in a comment to Belgian broadcaster bx1.
According to STIB, much of the increased violence relates to mandates and social distancing rules, but also due to social issues such as an increase in homelessness, alcoholism and public intoxication.
To combat these increases, STIB has given around 1,000 managers awareness and prevention training, as well as self-defence classes. Furthermore, 16,000 CCTV cameras have been installed across the Brussels transport network.
The transport company is now seeking more police presence on the network, as well as new initiatives by the local government to tackle social insecurity.
“STIB cannot do everything on its own,” Ledune explained, “We are taking more and more time to ensure the security of our network, when that shouldn’t be our job.”
In January, STIB CEO Brieuc de Meeûs complained that violence against STIB staff had become a “daily occurrence.” According to the transport boss, attacks are also getting increasingly violent.
“It is often very violent and downright frightening,” he told Belgian newspaper Le Soir. “Boys are taken to hospital with broken arms and stitches, but also traumatised drivers and buses are pelted with stones, or even staff at stations are spat at.”
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Violence against members of the transport sector is up in all regions of Belgium.
In 2021, there were a total of 4,787 attacks against staff from the SNCB, STIB, TEC and De Lijn. This means that across Belgium, there were around 13 attacks on staff per day.
Around 25% of these attacks are now physical. 440 members of staff were injured in a work incident in 2021, leading to 11,433 days of paid leave for members of staff.