METAL thefts from churches fell last year to their lowest levels
for six years, the church insurance company Ecclesiastical
Insurance has announced.
The company's figures for 2012 show that there were 930
insurance claims from Anglican churches last year - significantly
down from the 2011 high of 2600, which was the worst year on
record. The cost of insurance claims fell from nearly £4.5 million
in 2011 to £1.8 million in 2012.
Falls of 70 per cent and 50 per cent have been recorded in the
dioceses of Truro and Exeter respectively, but Ecclesiastical -
which insures 96 per cent of the churches in the UK - said that
some areas were still badly affected by metal thefts.
The sharp decrease is attributed to a combination of falling
metal prices, increased security measures, and a co-ordinated
approach by the police and local authorities to tackling the crime.
Scrap-metal dealers have also signed up to a voluntary code to
retain copies of photographic identification from people who sell
A Private Member's Bill, put forward by the Conservative MP
Richard Ottaway, which would outlaw cash payments for scrap metal
and force scrap-metal dealers to go through an application process
in order to qualify for a licence has been approved by MPs (
News, 16 November). It will start its journey through the House
of Lords tomorrow, and is expected to receive Royal Assent and
become law be- fore Easter.
The director of church insurance at Ecclesiastical, John Coates,
said: "These figures are hugely encouraging, but it would be
premature to predict the end of the epidemic of metal theft. [The
figure of] 930 claims is still 930 too many. Metal-theft incidents
are still running well above levels seen in the 1990s and early
2000s, when metal theft was so infrequent we saw fewer than ten
church claims a year.
"There are still areas in the country where metal-theft
incidents are far too frequent. For example, according to our
claims statistics, the worst-affected areas for church metal-theft
in 2012 were Salisbury, Chelmsford, Winchester, Chichester, and
"Even though the numbers 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 safe from these heartless, predatory criminals."
Ecclesiastical has also launched a campaign to fit electronic
alarm-systems to church roofs - installing £500,000's worth of
alarms free of charge in the worst-affected areas - and giving
churches the SmartWater forensic marker-liquid, which enables the
tracing of metal to its source.