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10 June 2014, 07:05
CCTV released of gang suspected of stealing money from ticket vending machines.
Police have launched a major investigation to catch a gang suspected of stealing more than £3,000 pounds from ticket vending machines at train stations in Hertfordshire and London.
Since April six stations have been targeted including Brookmans Park and Welham Green in Hatfield, where the group used an angle grinder and pickaxes, causing more than £100,000 worth of damage.
Officers have released dramatic footage of the offences taking place, alongside still images of the three men who are currently their main suspects.
Detective Constable Nick Thompson, leading the investigation, said: "I am now confident this spate of thefts is the responsibility of the same gang of three men. They target smaller stations in the early hours when there are no staff on duty and the last train has gone. They arrive as a group, head straight to the automatic ticket vending machines and set about a sustained attack using heavy-duty cutting equipment and pick axes."
"The dramatic CCTV video shows the men in action, attacking the ticket machines with an angle grinder and forcing the front open to get at the cash boxes inside. While the men did attempt to disable the security cameras at some stations, there is still good quality footage, including clear images of one man's face."
The first reported incident took place just after midnight on Saturday, 19 April, at Brookmans Park station, Hertfordshire. After tampering with security cameras, the gang managed to break open the front of the ticket machine and got away with £750 in cash. Their actions caused more than £23,000 worth of damage.
This was followed by an attack two days later on Monday, 21 April, at nearby Bayford railway station. Despite again causing more than £23,000 worth of damage to the machine, this time the gang left empty-handed as they targeted a machine which only accepted card payments.
Three weeks later two stations were targeted on the same night, with ticket machines at Watton-at-Stone and Oakleigh Park attacked in the early hours of Sunday, 18 May. The gang got away with more than £900 in cash from the two machines and caused an estimated £30,000 worth of damage.
Hadley Wood station was targeted the following morning on Monday, 19 May. Here the gang caused more than £23,000 worth of damage and stole £650 in cash. The last known attack was on Friday, 23 May, at Welham Green station, where £850 was stolen and £7,000 worth of damage was reported.
This investigation is part of Operation Captivity, a nationwide effort to catch criminals who target ticket vending machines at railway stations.
Tony Holland, First Capital Connect crime prevention manager, said: "Last year we invested £700,000 to upgrade our CCTV systems and ensure we had coverage at every single station. We're pleased that has paid off in providing an image of these criminals whose actions have caused so much damage. Please come forward if you recognise any of the members of this gang."
DC Thompson added: "The money stolen in these attacks really does pale into insignificance when you consider the cost of the damage - which is estimated as thirty-three times the value of the cash taken. These thefts haven't just hit the rail industry financially, they've also caused disruption and inconvenience to passengers, with ticket machines taken out of service for repairs.
"I am doing everything I can to catch the individuals responsible as I believe it's only a matter of time before they strike again. If anyone recognises the men pictured, or thinks they may have witnessed the incidents taking place, please get in touch.