Church metal thefts drop dramatically
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.