Police are aiming to ‘‘send a message’’ by hitting the Otford graffiti gang with serious charges.
On Saturday morning a gang of five masked men stopped a train at Otford and sprayed graffiti on two carriages while the driver, guard and passengers remained inside.
The matter is being investigated by the Police Transport Command South West Sector and Detective Superintendent Bernie Ryan said they were looking to come down hard on the gang.
‘‘What I want to do, is I want to send a message to these networks of criminals that we’re not going to tolerate this,’’ Supt Ryan said.
‘‘We’re treating this more seriously than just a graffiti incident and we’re following up a number of lines of inquiry and I’m very much looking forward to speaking to the individuals who were involved in this incident on Saturday morning.
‘‘We’re looking at more serious offences under the Crimes Act that relate to stopping a train for the purposes of damaging it.’’
Supt Ryan said the charges carried a maximum sentence of 14 years and several arrests may come soon.
‘‘There are some promising leads in the investigation and we look forward to finding these offenders in the very, very near future.’’
There had been claims on social media that the gang had baseball bats which were used to threaten those on board and laid a ‘‘home-made derailer’’ on the tracks.
However, Supt Ryan said no weapons were involved and nothing was laid on the tracks beyond a milk crate and a piece of timber.
Stopping a train this way was a ‘‘shift in their tactics’’, Supt Ryan said of graffiti gangs, who usually vandalised trains that weren’t in active service.
He added that, as well as being dangerous for those on the train, it was risky for the offenders too.
‘‘It’s dangerous behaviour, entering the rail corridor,’’ he said.
‘‘You’ve got electricity and trains are quiet these days - you’ve got express services and you don’t hear them until they’re right on top of you.’’