British Transport Police has warned a child will be seriously injured or killed following a surge in reports of trespass and criminal damage to trains in South Tyneside.
Gangs of children have been spotted releasing the brake valves on freight trains on the rail line at Brockley Whins station near Tyne Dock.
PC Graham Marshall is urging anyone with information on incidents of trespass and criminal damage to trains to come forward.
He said: "Reports have increased over the last few weeks, with the last incident taking place near to Brockley Whins station on Wednesday, 8 August.
"Officers were called to the line after a passing freight train driver reported seeing a group of children on the tracks around 8.15pm.
"It is believed that whilst the train was stationary, the group of children approached it and opened valves.
"Despite increasing patrols in the area there has been an increase in problematic behaviour and we have had reports of trespass and criminal damage to trains. We are really concerned that it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or even killed.
"The railway is an inherently dangerous environment, with high speed trains and electric currents, and it should never be treated as a playground or somewhere to hang about.
"Parents and adults must also take responsibility and emphasise the dangers to your children, and if you live near the railway, ask yourself if you know where your children are playing?
"If you are caught deliberately obstructing the railway or trespassing on the tracks and endangering people’s safety we will do everything in our power to prosecute you and put you before the courts, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment."
PC Marshall added: "We do not want to have to tell any family that their son or daughter will not be coming home.
"The message is simple, stop causing trouble, stay safe and stay off the tracks."
To report a crime to British Transport Police, please call 0800 40 50 40. In an emergency, always call 999.
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