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Church lead thefts drop thanks to security measures
An increase in sophisticated security measures at churches has led to a dramatic reduction in metal thefts.
A rise in the use of traceable Smartwater markings and roof mounted intruder alarms on the county’s churches has been identified as the cause behind a 40 per cent drop in metal theft claims last year.
Churches in the Chichester Diocese made 30 metal theft claims at a total cost of £50,000 during 2012, according to Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG).
The figure is a significant drop from 2011 when the church insurer received more than 50 claims costing a total of nearly £90,000.
One of the highest claims came from St Barnabas Church in Sackville Road, Hove, after thieves stripped thousands of pounds of lead from the church roof in October.
Thefts reported last year also include lightning rods, which were stolen from St Denys Church, Rotherfield, and St Dunstan’s Church, Mayfield.
Lead has also been stolen from the roofs of St Bartholomew’s Church in Burwash and Isfield Parish Church in the same week in June.
Father Canon Keith Richards of St Barnabas Church in Hove said: “We replaced the stolen lead with a temporary repair and we’ve just had an architect out who reckons it will cost £10,000 to replace the stolen lead, which we hope the insurance will cover.
“Sometimes if its replacement lead, if the lead is stolen again the insurers may set a limit on what they pay out to possibly £1,000, so we’re looking at alternatives like stainless steel or zinc.
“It is a hassle and that is part of the frustration. It’s not my primary job, I’m not a building manager.
“Our lead was marked with smartwater which is supposed to be fool-proof and make the lead very traceable, but we’ve not heard anything about the people who stole our lead.”
A Diocese of Chichester spokeswoman said: “The diocese is encouraged to see that EIG has reported a drop in claims for lead theft in the past year.
“Parishes have been encouraged to take appropriate security measures to deter theft, such as the application of Smartwater and the installation of a roof-mounted intruder alarm.
“The reported drop in claims would appear to demonstrate the effectiveness of such measures.”
Inspector Martin Pattenden, head of neighbourhood policing at Sussex Police, said: “We have undertaken considerable work in recent months to combat the problem of metal thefts and are delighted to see that this is having an impact on the number of offences committed.
“We will continue to engage with churches that are thought to be at risk, together with those that have been victims of metal thefts.
“We will also work closely with scrap metal dealers as part of Operation Tornedo.”
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