STRUGGLING police officers are calling on the public to help cut thefts of lead from church roofs.
With few resources to dedicate to patrolling villages around Grantham, which are most likely to be targeted by lead thefts, the force is urging communities to “take responsibility for these heritage buildings”.
This type of crime is rife in this area of the county because it is largely rural. Since January alone, around 50 churches in Lincolnshire have been targeted by thieves who sell on the lead for as much as £1,000 a tonne.
With more than 600 churches in the county, officers say it is unrealistic for them to provide additional patrols without their higher priorities suffering.
Chief Inspector Mark Housley said: “We are calling for the public to take a real interest in the security of their local church. We all have a responsibility and a role to play in making our communities safe and if we work together we can make a real impact on this issue.
“The key here is early reporting in terms of descriptions of people and cars, particularly registration plates.
“We want you to act on your instincts and report any activity you think is out of the ordinary, you won’t be wasting our time – your information could lead to the arrests we need.”
“Unscrupulous scrap dealers” play a key role in the growing problem, say police. Many are weighing large amounts of stolen scrap with a “no questions asked” attitude.
Even reputable dealers are only legally obliged to record the name and address of the person weighing in the scrap and there is no requirement for proof of identificaton.
Police say a recent ‘dip test’ of regional dealers found that seven out of 10 names and addresses in records were fictitious.
Officers are working closely with churches to help make them more secure. Installing pressure sensor alarms is one option, and another is building owners weighing in the lead themselves and using the money to buy an alternative, such as a plastic material.