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Decline in metal theft

03 January 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK



MORE than 4000 churches in England and Wales have suffered metal thefts in the past three years, new research suggests.

The figures show a decline in the number of thefts, however, from 2335 in 2011, to 545 in 2013. Thieves also targeted more than 5000 schools in the same period.

The survey was conducted by Liberal Democrats in the London borough of Southwark after a number of metal thefts in their own area, including the theft of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture worth £500,000, which was stolen from Dulwich Park in 2011.

They used Freedom of Information requests to all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Six forces - Hampshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, Surrey, and Wiltshire - failed to produce statistics, while Cambridgeshire had not recorded specific figures.

The Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Member for Community Safety on Southwark Council, Michael Bukola, said: "The huge scale of lead theft from churches and schools is extremely worrying. Missing lead from roofs is costly to replace, and can also cause other serious problems."

He predicted that new regulations to tackle metal theft would make it easier to catch rogue metal-dealers (Feature, 10 May 2013). "I would expect to see these figures go down in future years," he said. "Schools and churches should also look to see whether they can increase security - for example by using SmartWater marking and anti-climb paint, and if necessary they may also have to consider whether imitation lead might be a better option."

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, which came into force on 1 October, introduced a new mandatory licensing scheme for scrap-metal dealers.

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