VANDALS who daub graffiti on trains and railway property are being targeted in a Christmas police operation.
One man has already been arrested on suspicion of committing offences in Wigan and uniformed and covert patrols by officers will continue across the rail network throughout the festive period.
British Transport Police has launched Operation Silverback to crackdown on rising levels of graffiti attacks on train stations, depots and trains.
Between April and November this year BTP recorded 3,729 graffiti offences nationally, a hike of 34 per cent on figures for the same period last year.
The nationwide initiative has already resulted in 23 arrests including an 18-year-old man arrested on Wednesday Dec 20 on suspicion of committing graffiti offences in Wigan, Manchester, Buxton and Macclesfield between March 2005 and August this year.
The operation has been mounted now as traditionally graffiti attacks tend to increase over the festive period.
Detective Superintendent Ashley Croft from British Transport Police said: "With virtually no train movements on Christmas Day, it should be a quiet time for us. Unfortunately, we know these vandals will try to take advantage of the Christmas hiatus on the rail system to commit criminal damage that will cost rail companies thousands of pounds.
"These people are also putting themselves in real danger. Even when there are no passenger services, there are still some train movements, and overhead cables and the third rail remain live at all times.
"Some people like to debate the artistic merits of graffiti – it's an irrelevant question. If someone hits you with a baseball bat, you don't start considering the quality of their swing. Graffiti vandals are indulging in selfish, anti-social behaviour that is an attack on the environment."
"Graffiti is a serious crime and over 100 officers have been involved in this operation so far. We are pleased with the way the operation is going."
Edward Funnell from the Association of Train Operating Companies said: "Graffiti is a scourge on our rail network. It is messy, unsightly and sometimes dangerous vandalism that defaces trains and stations and costs the rail industry millions of pounds in clean-up costs every year. We wish British Transport Police every success with their latest operation in catching some of the culprits."
Between April and November this year BTP recorded 3,729 graffiti offences nationwide - a 34 per cent rise on figures for the same period in 2005.
Between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day last year, 63 attacks were recorded compared with 20 over the same three days in November.
Offenders taken to court for graffiti offences can face jail.