Police and churches tackle metal thefts

PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 August 2012

The rising price of scrap metal has led to an increase in thefts

The rising price of scrap metal has led to an increase in thefts


THE police are working alongside churches in North Somerset and Somerset in a bid to tackle the increase of metal theft.

With the global price of metal prices rising, the region has seen a marked increase in the number of thefts of metal from places of worship, causing ‘distress’ to the communities around them.

Operation Tornado has been launched nationally and will see forces across the South West cooperating to tackle the rise in thefts from churches.

Scrap metal yards have been asked to sign up the scheme, with anyone going to a yard to sell metal now asked for proof of their identity in the form of a passport, driving licence or national identity card.

This makes it easier to trace sellers of stolen metal through their identification, also making it harder to sell on stolen goods.

The force has also held meetings with church representatives to discuss ways to prevent thefts from happening.

St Andrew’s Church in Congresbury has been targeted several times by thieves who have stolen lead from its roof.

The last raid saw vandals strip a large number of tiles from its roof earlier this year, leaving the church with a hefty bill to replace them.

And St Andrew’s Church in Burnham was also targeted earlier this year, when two brass crosses were stolen.

The crosses were later recovered from Morland pond in Highbridge thanks to information provided to the police by a resident who spotted the artefacts.

PC Stephen Whatley said: “Theft of lead from churches is a major issue, which is causing untold distress to communities across the country.

“These thieves are striking at the very heart of our communities and in some cases are causing irreparable damage to some of our most beautiful heritage buildings.”

Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Mark Saunders, the South West’s regional lead officer in tackling metal theft, said: “Tornado is already in operation in other parts of the country and has already been proven successful with the trial areas seeing a significant drop, approximately 60 per cent in the levels of opportunist metal theft, without seeing a rise in other opportunistic crime types which is extremely positive.”

Anyone with information on thefts from churches should contact the police on 101.

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