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Heritage security advice

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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.

Heritage crime is any offence that harms the value of heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations. This covers harm done by owners, for example by allowing a building to fall into disrepair, as well as criminal threats such as theft or criminal damage, or other illegal activity which affects local businesses or residents.

The cost to communities of heritage crime is enormous, not just in monetary value but in social costs. History fascinates people, and the damage being caused could deny future generations the opportunity to enjoy our heritage.

By its nature most heritage property was created without consideration for modern criminal behaviour and owners can find that new threats appear regularly (such as the dramatic increase in metal theft in recent years) and place a heavy burden on them. This advice aims to provide a starting point for heritage security. More detailed advice is available from the British Security Industry Association.

Heritage security help

  • Advice for protecting regular commercial and residential property is equally useful at heritage properties – see our other crime prevention guides for more information
  • However, depending on the type of heritage property, its individual circumstances and contents some may need further, more specific consideration. A thorough risk assessment will help identify these specifics and will direct the protective measures taken
  • Successful crime prevention strategies should aim to reduce the risk to the property by increasing the risk of detection to the thief or other criminal. The types and level of security and protection used should be determined by the results of the risk assessment, which considers the way the property is used and when it is most at risk
  • Heritage security must also take into account and be balanced against any knock-on effects on the heritage item. For example, moving a statue from a park to a gallery makes it less available to the public, changes its aesthetic appeal, and reduces the quality of the park
  • Protective measures must not detract from a property’s character and must be unobtrusive – otherwise a Georgian shop front with external roller shutters becomes a bland modern building; fitting CCTV cameras to the front of a house is unappealing and can contravene regulations. Striking the right balance can be more costly than using standard measures
  • When assessing the risks to a heritage asset, a holistic approach is required. Look at the property and its surroundings as a whole. Think about things from a criminal’s point of view and work out the most likely targets and the ways criminals would attack the property
  • Once you’ve considered what could go wrong and how it might impact on you, then you need to think about what you should do about it. A mitigating action is something done to protect your property and broadly may take three forms:
  • Ignoring/accepting a risk
  • Exporting/transferring a risk
  • Addressing a risk
  • Having the right insurance is also vital for heritage properties – speak to your insurer or seek specialist advice to make sure your cover and any security measures you implement are suitable and acceptable

A simple piece of security advice for all types of property is not to place all hope in a single solution. Security provisions should be used in combination to achieve four things:

  • Deterrence: measures that will make a criminal think twice
  • Detection: the identification of a threat or crime
  • Delay: measures to slow a criminal’s progress and increase their risk of capture
  • Response: what happens when a crime is detected, e.g. the use of a security guard or arrival of the police

In many cases a solution will contribute to more than one of these. For example, a strong fence will deter a burglar and also cause a delay gaining entry.

Remember: When considering measures to prevent heritage crime and protect a heritage site, it’s essential you are aware of any regulations, laws and controls that are in place and may affect any work on your property.

To speak to our crime prevention team about preventing heritage crime email crimeprevention@northants.pnn.police.uk

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