Specialist insurer Ecclesiastical today renewed its warning that many of Britain’s churches and buildings are being systematically targeted by criminals for their valuable metal.
Speaking on national “Metal Theft Day of Action”, Ecclesiastical’s claims and risk services director David Bonehill stressed that up to four churches each day are being damaged by metal thieves plus an increasing number of non-faith buildings such as schools.
Mr Bonehill said: “Metal Theft Day of Action is an excellent way of raising awareness of the scale and damage that metal theft is causing in our country today. But it’s vital to understand that this scourge doesn’t just affect infrastructure such as cabling and pipes. Much of the UK’s most important and socially valuable building stock is being stripped of its roofing, its guttering and other vital parts of its fabric.
“Raising public awareness is part of fighting the problem: all too often people see the criminals in the act but mistake them for legitimate builders or trades people. “Co-operation between the authorities and organisations involved in fighting this crime will also help. We need to share intelligence and learn from our successes. “Ultimately, we need to work with scrap yards to close off the market for stolen metal in this country and thus protect the architectural heritage the UK is renowned for.”
During the first six months of 2010 Ecclesiastical received a total of 945 theft of metal claims worth more than £2.1m. The highest number of metal theft claims was recorded in 2008 when, during the first five months of the year, 1,382 claims worth more than £4.2m were received by Ecclesiastical.
Although lead stolen from churches still makes up the majority of theft of metal claims to Ecclesiastical, a significant increase is now emerging in non-faith claims. With more than 18% of all metal theft claims now being recorded for non-faith customers such as schools, heritage buildings and commercial properties, the insurer is warning that a number of sectors will need to improve their security measures to fight the epidemic.
In addition to urging its customers to continue to use the forensic SmartWater solution to protect roofing lead and other valuables, Ecclesiastical is also piloting an external roof alarm scheme with a number of its church customers. Several churches suffering from repeated lead thefts have had the alarms fitted during the pilot phase, resulting in no subsequent thefts once the alarms were introduced.
In February this year, Ecclesiastical announced that over the last five years, theft of metal from UK churches has cost over £20m in insurance claims. Metal Theft Day of Action on Wednesday 14 July has been called by a range of organisations in the UK including the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), Network Rail, British Transport Police, BT and the Environment Agency.