‘We have to work together’ to stop church roof lead thefts - that was the clear message given at an awareness raising crime prevention seminar held in Melton’s St Mary’s Church.
The well attended event on Thursday, organised by Leicestershire Police, included presentations given by key organisations and speakers including Historic England, Ecclesiastical Insurance, Leicestershire Crimestoppers and community members whose local churches have been faced with huge repair bills after being targeted by lead thieves.
Police and church officials also urged members of the public to help combat lead theft by being extra vigilant within their communities, reporting any suspicious behaviour to police immediately, and advice was given on steps that could be taken to guard against church lead theft.
A total of 20 churches in Leicestershire and Rutland have been targeted since March 2015 – including 10 since the start of this year. Some churches in the Melton area have also been targeted multiple times.
Crime reduction officer Mick Kaiser said: “Lead theft is a crime that strikes at the heart of our communities, especially when it’s taken from the roofs of churches. Often the lead itself is worth several thousand pounds but the cost to repair the damage to the building and replace the lead can be four or five times the value of the lead that is taken.”
Sproxton resident Malise Graham, who spoke about his local church which had been a victim of lead theft, said: “It’s a nightmare. It will cost us £150,000 but they’re not going to get £150,000. It’s a struggle for a small community to raise that money.”
The seminar discussed the alternatives of churches replacing lead with lead despite the difficulties this could pose, with Historic England preferring churches to replace lead with lead.
Eilis Scott, an inspector with Historic England, said: “We do understand this is a very serious issue and therefore we have a guidance which we are reviewing. We do consider and, in some cases, support the use of other materials.”
Churches have being urged to mark lead with Smartwater, install alarms, external lighting and CCTV to protect themselves from lead thieves.
Leicestershire Police is also working with the Diocese of Leicester to deliver crime prevention leaflets to residents around every church in Leicestershire and Rutland, urging them to be extra vigilant.
Anyone living near a church who notices any suspicious behaviour should report it to police immediately by calling 101.