Chelmsford top in church metal thefts

churchChurch insurer Ecclesiastical has named the worst places in the UK for metal thefts from churches, naming and shaming the Essex town of Chelmsford.

Chelmsford Diocese has topped the league for the worst-hit places in the UK for theft of lead and other valuable metals. Churches there reported more than 90 claims to Ecclesiastical for theft of metal in 2011.
The dioceses of Lincoln and Lichfield were the second and third worst affected, both with more than 80 claims. London and Southwell dioceses were in fourth and fifth positions respectively.

Overall, 2011 has become the worst year on record for the number of theft of metal claims from churches with the number of claims exceeding 2,500 by the end of the year, surpassing the previous worst figure of more than 2,400 in 2008.

Public supports tougher laws

The figures come as a new national survey by Ecclesiastical revealed that almost half of the UK's population (49%) is "appalled that someone can steal lead from a church", while a further 37% are "saddened" by the crime.

Ecclesiastical's survey also showed overwhelming support from the public for a toughening up of the laws on metal theft. Two-thirds (67%) of UK adults "strongly support" changes to the law that would make it harder for criminals to sell stolen lead and other metals to scrap dealers. A further 23% would "tend to support" such legislative changes.

Half of the public (50%) would "strongly support" tougher sentencing for criminals convicted of stealing metal from churches or other places of worship while a further 29% would "tend to support" such measures.

18% of UK adults say that metal theft has had a direct impact on their employment or personal lives in terms of its effect on transport, energy networks and farming since 2007.

Sense of outrage

John Coates, Ecclesiastical's direct insurance services director, said: "2011 has been a very tough year with incidents of metal theft from churches becoming virtually endemic. If there is any light at the end of the tunnel, it's the groundswell of public awareness of the problem this year and the growing sense of outrage.

"Our survey shows that the public does not want this state of affairs to continue and will support action to crack down on metal thieves and the methods they use to gain money for their stolen goods. We believe it's important that the government takes note of this mood and takes immediate action to tighten up the law, particularly the Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964."

More than prayers

In addition to promoting the use of the forensic liquid SmartWater among its customers, Ecclesiastical has successfully trialled and piloted the use of roof alarms in churches that have been targeted by metal thieves repeatedly.

As a result of the trial, Ecclesiastical will now soon be launching a new anti-metal theft campaign that promotes a wider use of roof alarms in churches to deter criminals and reduce metal theft across the country.

Last year, the diocese of Manchester topped Ecclesiastical's list of most church metal thefts with More than 90 claims.

Worst hit dioceses in 2011

  • Chelmsford
  • Lincoln
  • Lichfield
  • London
  • Southwell

Worst hit dioceses in 2010

  • Manchester
  • Lincoln
  • Chelmsford
  • Southwark
  • Oxford
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