Church metal thefts drop dra­mat­i­cally

The Church of England - - NEWS -

METAL thefts from churches fell from more than 2,600 claims in 2011 to 930 last year, the low­est fig­ure for six years.

Ac­cord­ing to Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal, the cost of in­surance claims fell from nearly £4.5 mil­lion in 2011, which was the worst year on record, to £1.8 mil­lion in 2012.

In the Dio­cese of Truro claims fell by 70 per cent and in Ex­eter they fell by 50 per cent but Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal says there are some ar­eas where claims are too high. The worst af­fected ar­eas for metal theft are Birm­ing­ham, Chichester, Winch­ester and Chelms­ford Dio­ce­ses.

Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal is of­fer­ing its worst-hit cus­tomers a do­na­tion to in­stall wire­less alarm pro­tec­tion. It also pro­vides churches with Smart-Water, which makes it pos­si­ble to trace metal to its source.

Fall­ing metal prices have helped to re­duce theft but in­creased ac­tiv­ity by the po­lice has also been im­por­tant. At the end of last year a Ro­ma­nian metal gang was ar­rested by Bri­tish Trans­port Po­lice and sen­tenced to a to­tal of over 20 years in prison. The gang was based in Birm­ing­ham and had been steal­ing metal all around the Mid­lands.

Last year Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal launched a ‘Hands Off Our Churches’ cam­paign. A pri­vate-mem­bers bill that out­laws cash pay­ments for scrap metal and in­tro­duces a process for li­cens­ing deal­ers has passed through the Com­mons and is now be­ing dis­cussed by the Lords. It could be­come law be­fore Easter.

A num­ber of scrap metal deal­ers have signed up for a vol­un­tary code in which they agree to keep pho­to­graphic records of those who sell them scrap metal.

Ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal un­der­writes 96 per cent of Bri­tain’s churches. Di­rec­tor John Coates de­scribed the 2012 fig­ures for metal theft as ‘hugely en­cour­ag­ing’ but said it would be ‘pre­ma­ture’ to pre­dict the prob­lem was over.

Although fig­ures for 2012 are down on pre­vi­ous years they are still high com­pared with lev­els seen in the 1990s and the early years of this cen­tury when there were fewer than 10 claims a year.

“Even though the fig­ures are point­ing in the right di­rec­tion, it’s go­ing to take a con­certed ef­fort, for years to come, from busi­nesses, politi­cians and law-en­force­ment agen­cies to en­sure our her­itage is safer from th­ese heart­less, preda­tory crim­i­nals,” Mr Coates said.

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