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Churches have warned of ‘senseless’ crimes that ‘deeply cut’ communities Bath City News

A major heritage building insurer has warned county churches to remain vigilant against metal theft during the summer months.

Ecclestiastical Insurance, the specialty insurer, says the pandemic has induced a decline in metal receivable theft during the pandemic, but with the latest Covid-related restrictions lifted, fears of a counter-reactive increase are present.

The supplier says there is “strong demand for copper and lead” which is “driven by an increase in metal prices”. Several churches have already been hit by robberies in the first quarter of 2022. Last year a gang was successfully prosecuted for a series of robberies in Dorset and beyond, with sentences totaling over 22 years for crimes committed which caused more than £2 million in damage. Another gang is currently awaiting trial.

READ MORE: Vital repairs to Somerset’s heritage railway bridge will last through summer

One of the ways churches can protect themselves more effectively is by reviewing their security arrangements, according to the company. They recommend: “Measures such as security lights and roof alarms, as well as other measures such as installing additional lighting, anti-climb paint and CCTV can also help prevent that buildings are considered easy targets for criminals.”

“Some churches and heritage properties that have suffered incidents of metal theft have replaced stolen materials with alternatives, such as stainless steel, that are less attractive to criminals.”

Metal theft has been a problem for many Somerset churches in recent years (Image: Somerset Live)

Jo Whyman, director of risk management at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said: “The last two years have seen a decline in claims, but we believe the UK-wide lockdowns have played a part in this.

“There is a risk that the continued economic downturn in the UK and the high value of scrap metal will lead to an increase in metal theft from historic buildings such as churches, which is why it is vital that they take action to protect their premises against unscrupulous persons. delinquents.

“Metal theft can have a devastating impact on churches and heritage buildings. Besides the cost of replacing the metal, other damage can occur due to exposure to the elements which can cost thousands of pounds. It is essential that churches in Somerset take steps to protect themselves from thieves and follow our advice available on our website.

Two years ago, Avon and Somerset Police carried out a joint investigation with Lincolnshire Police which saw three men charged in connection with a series of church metal thefts from 2018 to 2020. This wave of crimes resulted in several churches in the county being targeted, including St Mary’s Church, Glastonbury, St John the Baptist Church, Wellington and St Andrew & St Mary’s Church in Pitminster.

“We have a south and north aisle which are full replicas,” says Reverend Jim Fallon of St Andrew & St Mary’s Church, “unfortunately we knew we would be targeted twice.”

“In total they caused £56,000 of damage, and it wasn’t just to the roof – there was also extensive damage to the interior, the carpets were destroyed and the organ had to spend £10,000 £ to fix this.”

The thieves had been bothered, so they even ended up leaving a large amount of lead behind. The church could only resell it, and for a small price.

“There are generations of involvement in this church, and all for just a few thousand pounds of scrap,” says Reverend Fallon, “It is senseless violence, and what can you really do to protect yourself against that? Do you sit on the roof of a church all day?

Because insurance payouts are significantly lower than repair costs, many churches rely on the strength of their communities to raise funds for needed repairs.

“The ripple went deep into the community and it went deep. It felt like an attack on the community. Luckily we have a strong local connection here, even down to the pilgrims, so we actually had families in America who really helped us too,” says Reverend Fallon.

A more comprehensive list of tips for reducing the risk of metal theft is available on the Church Insurance website here.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-01 05:30:00

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