SUSSEX has experienced the highest number of crimes in religious buildings in any county outside London for the second year in a row.

Data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to Sussex Police revealed that 367 crimes have been committed at churches in Sussex in the 12 months to August.

Of the 367 crimes at churches, cemeteries and crematoriums, 54 were thefts, 106 cases of criminal damage and 44 cases of violence.

While the figures are down on those recorded last year by 27 incidents, Sussex still ranks as the second highest location for crimes recorded on church property.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance said: “We are presented with a grim reality that many churches and places of worship are being treated as easy targets by criminals.

“These are supposed to be places where people go to seek solace, but all too often they subjected to heinous crimes, either in or on their property.

“We cannot allow these precious places, which are often the centre of villages and towns across the country, to go unguarded and be so exposed.

The Argus: St Nicolas Church in PortsladeSt Nicolas Church in Portslade

“Irrespective of faith, ensuring the public keep an ever watchful eye on churches and reporting suspicious behaviour to police is vital as is easy access protective funding schemes.”

The organisation’s annual report into crimes on churches and religious buildings has revealed a total of 30,169 incidents in four years, with data obtained under Freedom of Information laws going back to 2017.

Nationally, 115 lead thefts were recorded along with 1336 thefts, 1688 incidents of vandalism and criminal damage - including arson - and 824 incidents of violence, including sexual assault and assault on an officer.

207 incidents were specifically marked as burglary, as well as other crimes including stalking, malicious communications, hate crime and drug possession.

Overall there has been a decrease nationally in crimes committed at churches since last year. South Wales, Cleveland, Essex, Hertfordshire and Greater Manchester were the other five forces to return increases this year.

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