A COMBINATION of falling metal prices,
increased security measures, and a co-ordinated approach by the
police and local authorities has resulted in a significant fall in
the incidence of metal thefts from churches and other
Operation Tornado includes greater
enforcement activity by the police and a voluntary commitment from
metal-dealers to retain copies of photographic identification from
people who sell scrap metal.
A conservation officer with the Church
Buildings Council, Dr David Knight, described Operation Tornado as
a "very significant development in metal theft". Some police
forces, he said, were reporting falls in thefts of up a half as a
result of the "very effective co-ordinated police response, working
with other enforcement agencies".
Section 146 of the Legal Aid,
Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 is expected to come
into effect in December. This bans cash payment for the sale of
scrap metal, except in the case of itinerant dealers. Under
Operation Tornado, many dealers have already introduced a voluntary
ban on cash payments.
Ecclesiastical, which insures many
Church of England buildings, says that it has experienced a fall in
claims. It dealt with 770 claims during the first nine months of
this year, compared with 2100 for the same period last year. Claims
this year, so far, total £1.3 million, compared with £4.5 million
for the whole of last year.
A spokeswoman for Ecclesiastical,
Katri Link, said that she hoped that the trend would continue; "but
metal prices are beginning to rise again. There is much wider
public awareness now, and people are being far more vigilant. The
police are also acting on it more now than in the past."
Besides rolling out the use of the
forensic-marking system SmartWater to every church, Ecclesiastical
is funding the use of wireless roof-alarms. It says that these have
also had an impact on the reduction in claims.
A Private Member's Bill that is
designed to tighten restrictions on the sale of scrap metal is due
to receive its Third Reading next month.