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Church Metal Theft Update - May 2018

May 2018

Update from District Neighbourhood Sergeant Sam Dobbs

This is an update for members of the church and wider community on the current situation regarding theft of lead from church buildings in the following context:

• Lead prices continue to rise, making it a stealable commodity despite efforts and legislation to thwart selling stolen metals

• Since 2009, the value of lead has doubled and rises monthly

• Roof alarms have massively impacted the insurability and losses but criminals adapt their practices so we need to ensure that owners can adapt accordingly

• Whilst metal thefts in Northamptonshire have stabilised/reduced, there have been significant issues over the county border, increasing the risk of deflection of crimes as more prevention is implemented there

Prevention: Rather than re-create existing resources, if you are someone who has responsibility for a church, please may I ask you to refresh your understanding of the main issues by referring to my metal theft ‘brain-dump’ of previous years and the helpful Metal Theft section of the website of Ecclesiastical Insurance? Links are available as sent with this document.

Current trends: In order to protect churches and maximise insurance cover, many Northamptonshire churches have installed insurer-approved roof alarms which have had a huge impact in protecting vulnerable buildings. However, like any alarm, vigilance is required when the alarm activates. My experience is that the occurrence of true ‘false alarms’ is negligible, but there are many alarm activations which follow thieves having accessed a roof to survey the security, damage/tamper or disable the system or peel back some lead.

If an alarm activation is not responded to properly, there is evidence that the thieves return to steal based on the ‘oh don’t worry, it’s just another false alarm’ syndrome response from a keyholder.

So what am I advising be done?

If you are a minister or churchwarden of a church without a roof alarm

• Please read the information mentioned overleaf and discuss with your church council and neighbourhood how you will target-harden your church, especially if you have easily-accessible lead, and how your church would cope with an only partially-insured lead loss.

• Please raise awareness of the need to be vigilant and encourage stewardship of your church building.

• Please consider the installation of an insurance-approved roof alarm and discuss this with your insurer

If you have responsibilities for a church with a roof alarm

• Please revisit and revise your keyholder list. Is your keyholder someone who is willing and able to attend in the hours of darkness, and check the roof space if necessary? If not, consider the guarding and keyholding options available to you or who, in your local community, may be able to assist by being an alternate keyholder.

• Identify where your roof sensors are. If the alarm activates and you conduct a visual check, do you know how many sensors are fitted and where they are?

• Consider what your processes are if the alarm activates? Are those processes safe and sensible? Is it likely that the person called by the alarm receiving centre will presume ‘it’s just a false alarm’ and ignore it?

• Consider what you will inform the police if the alarm activates and you think people are committing a crime? Will you dial 999, and how will you pass on the information?

• Check that you and others know how to activate the disable mode on the roof alarm if you need to get onto the roof (also how to do a walk-test of the system)

• Check whether neighbours will report suspicious activity around the church if the alarm has activated or not?

I hope that this information assists and is a timely reminder for us all to remain vigilant to this crime.


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Heritage security advice

Northamptonshire is a largely rural county which has many historic sites and properties. This guide aims to assist those with a need or responsibility to improve the protection given to our nation’s heritage.

UNESCO defines two forms of heritage – cultural heritage, such as monuments, buildings and sculptures, and natural heritage, such as areas of natural beauty or habitats of threatened species of animals and plants.

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