Essex: Thefts from churches strike at the heart of communities

COMMUNITIES are being urged to rally round their local churches amid escalating incidents of metal theft.

Churches across the county are being targeted by thieves who are stealing lead from the roofs, often causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The Ecclesiastical Insurance Company, which insures most of the churches in the region, reports that claims for thefts have risen 120 per cent in a year.

Several churches in Uttlesford have been targeted over the past few months and the district’s crime reduction adviser, Peter Caulfield, said there was “no reason to suspect that this trend will cease for the foreseeable future”.

He said: “The scrap value of lead is high at the moment and churches are a good source for this metal.”

Some preventative measures could be taken, he said, such as using a forensic marking product.

But the Neighbourhood Watch Steering Group for Uttlesford is also calling on communities to be vigilant about their churches and to ensure they call the police if they see anything suspicious.

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Chairman Alan Johnson said: “Almost every village in the district has its own church and in many cases it is the heart of the community.

“It is not just the lead from the roof that is vulnerable – the high price of scrap metal even puts the sacraments such as crosses, chalices and silverware at risk.

“Neighbourhood Watch is about building stronger communities and when our churches are targeted we feel as if our communities are under attack. I hope everyone will be more vigilant, more suspicious and more prepared to report anything that concerns them.”

The plea comes on the back of two thefts within a month at St John’s Church in Chapel Hill, Stansted Mountfitchet.

The incidents have left the church facing a bill for up to �50,000 to replace the lead and install an alarm system. The insurance will not pay out for both claims and the church is seeking grants to help meet the cost.

If you see anything suspicious call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.