The current high demand for raw materials has seen an increase in the theft of metal, typically lead, copper and steel. Churches are particularly vulnerable to this type of crime and a lead roof can prove a desirable target for a thief. Because many roofs are not visible from the ground the damage caused by a theft can remain undetected for some time and can lead to major problems with water ingress to the building.
In recent years heritage and church organisations have campaigned hard to encourage Government to tackle some of the issues surrounding metal theft. As a result, the Scrap Metal Dealers' Bill was passed on 28th February 2013. It has the full support of the trade and law enforcement agencies. Cashless trading at scrap yards came into force on 4 December 2012.
Several organisations have produced very useful guidance on metal theft, which can be of great help to churches under threat or who have already been targeted.
As the main insurer of church buildings in the UK, Ecclesiastical Insurance has a vested interest in reducing the amount of metal theft from buildings. Over the past four years, metal thefts from churches insured by EIG have exceeded £25m, with over 9,000 claims. The EIG website contains advice and guidance on security, including a free SmartWater kit for each church and how to reduce your risk of being targeted.
Ecclesiastical Insurance: theft of metal
National heritage bodies
English Heritage has published guidance on metal theft from church buildings. It is in two parts: the first offers advice for congregations on the significance of lead, how to protect it, and how to respond to thefts; the second offers detailed practical information about selecting the material to be used for historic church roofs and making it secure. The importance of prevention and vigilance is highlighted, along with the need to use a combination of security measures to deter thieves.
Historic England (endorsed by CADW): metal theft from church buildings
Historic Scotland: lead theft
The Church of England has gathered a great deal of useful information around the issue, and campaigned for the Scrap Metal Dealers' Bill.
Church of England: metal theft
Methodist Insurance: theft of metals