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Preventing metal theft and protecting places of worship

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Every year tonnes of metal is stolen from homes, businesses, churches, schools and substations. Not only does this type of theft cause disruption to services and inconvenience to those affected, it’s also costly to replace or repair any damage.

Preventing metal thefts

The police use numerous measures available to tackle metal theft, some targeting the thief and others targeting the receivers. As a home, business or property owner or caretaker there are also steps you can take to guard against it, including:

  • Using plastic pipes to replace copper and other metal pipes
  • Keeping scrap metal in a secure building or container until there is a sufficient amount to be taken to or collected by a licensed scrap dealer. On building sites, lockable and lidded skips or lorry containers should be used. Likewise, new cables, wiring and other sheet and mesh metals should be kept in secure containers until needed
  • Remove the means to commit crime. Access to lead roofs should be restricted. Lock away ladders and climbing aids such as wheelie bins. Where possible these should be chained up. Anti-climb collars can be fixed to climbable rain water and soil pipes
  • When taking scrap metal to your local licensed dealer or recycling centre, you must take identification documents with you as they will need your details
  • Builders should order white goods and boilers ‘just in time’ so that they can be installed into a securable building. Many developers temporarily alarm their new buildings and employ security staff at this time
  • Protecting your property through marking it makes it less attractive to criminals. Measures such as forensic marking can be used on metal and vehicle catalytic converters which are also targeted by metal thieves. Find approved products at www.securedbydesign.com
  • Use an alarm system developed specifically to protect lead roofs, and highlight its use with signs in prominent or likely climbing locations
  • Engaging with the local community is especially helpful in protecting churches, historic buildings and building sites. Encourage people to visit or pass by regularly, and ask them to report anything suspicious to police
  • Keep the site visible. Cut back overgrown vegetation to improve sight lines onto the building and its elevations

Protecting your place of worship

Church buildings in Northamptonshire have had lead stripped from their roofs, guttering and other areas, which in turn leaves the building exposed to the elements and risks further damage from rain, wind and vandalism. Repeat theft is an additional problem, with thieves deliberately targeting a church building and returning once repairs have been made.

To help protect your place of worship from metal theft, use this checklist to assess and improve your security measures:

  • Check your premises to identify and locate materials that may be attractive to thieves. If you are unsure, speak to your church architect. Examples of items desirable to thieves include lead, copper and stainless steel roof coverings, copper lightening conductors, lead and copper water pipes, metal statues, iron gates and church bells
  • Make regular checks on your roof to make sure it is intact. Unnoticed theft of lead from the roof can lead to extensive water damage at a later date
  • Review church security – e.g. lock gates and consider removal of large or overgrown bushes which may obscure the view of neighbours
  • Restrict vehicular access to the place of worship, especially when the site is not in use
  • Restrict access to the roof by removing items such as waste bins, water butts and tall trees located near the building. Make sure ladders are kept in a locked building when not in use and be especially careful when building works are being undertaken, particularly if scaffolding is in use
  • Engage with the local community; make sure neighbours know of any authorised work at the church so they can report any suspicious behaviour or the presence of unauthorised workmen to you or the police
  • Consider using anti-climb paint on drain pipes and on the metal itself in situ. The paint should only be applied above two metres from the ground and in each case suitable warning notices should be posted. Whenever anti-climb paint is applied, ensure the appropriate health and safety regulations are followed

To speak to our crime prevention team about preventing metal theft or protecting your place of worship email crimeprevention@northants.pnn.police.uk

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