UK Churches Are Targeted By Metal Thieves
With church parishioners left footing the bill for roof crimes, how can you keep your site protected from thieves?
There have been 33 reported lead theft crimes on churches based in Sussex over the last two years, with those in Dorset, Surrey, Wiltshire and Hampshire also experiencing at least 10 incidents across their individual counties in the same period. As beautiful and historic buildings, churches typically use lead for their roofs due to its robust and durable qualities. Once stolen, the result is that churches are left with bills of five figures or more to repair the remaining hole in their roof. Unfortunately, this is usually more than is available in the church fund, so some local parishioners are clubbing together to raise money so the congregation can keep worshipping in their beloved church.
Why Are Thieves Targeting Lead?
As the price of scrap metal has soared in the market, thieves looking for a profit are targeting these vulnerable buildings to strip them of their lead. Often there is little or no security in place which makes this type of crime a cinch. In some cases, once scaffolding has been erected to repair the damage, thieves have been known to return to the site and use the scaffold as an easy means to reach the remainder of the lead on the roof.
Securing Your Scaffolding
Where construction is taking place at churches, or any other site where you wish to secure raw materials, you can use scaffold alarms to prevent criminals from accessing your building works. If these are triggered, then they’ll send an alert to a remote monitoring centre, where security professionals will verify if a genuine intrusion is taking place. In the event of an authentic trespassing threat, approved SIA responders will be dispatched to the site of the church to confront the criminals in action.
Whilst scaffolding alarms are a critical way to alert you of an intrusion that is already taking place, there are other means of deterring criminals from targeting your church, or any other building that uses lead or other raw materials that they’re attracted to. Thieves are known to use sophisticated scoping methods including drones or the use of Google satellite to view the tops of buildings and work out which to target. As churches in rural areas are often in quite remote locations, these are seen as being the perfect buildings to strike. But for those sites with a strong, impenetrable boundary or for those who obviously use surveillance technology such as CCTV or virtual guard systems, criminals will likely consider this type of site to be too much of a risk.
Caught In The Act
In the case of Petre Romeo Cazan who targeted seven churches in four counties, he caused £190k worth of damage before he was caught. After striking a site in East Meon, Petersfield, his red van was stuck in the mud of the church grounds as he tried to drive away with a heavy load of lead, which weighed the vehicle down into the ground. After being caught, he was sentenced to 7 and a half years of jail time.
Although this particular story might send a stark warning to any criminals who are engaged in this type of activity, the National Crime Agency reports that metal theft is growing rapidly across the UK. To protect your site, make sure that you use CCTV, scaffold alarms and strong security perimeters to ensure that your valuable materials are kept safe.