Published: Friday, February 14, 2020
Alarms to help stop metal theft from churches
The rise in metal theft (lead and copper) from church roofs across Britain has been well-documented.
It is a highly organised crime which can cost a church £100,000s, money which it is unlikely to have going spare, not to mention the loss of irreplaceable artefacts which get damaged should a downpour occur before the roof has been fixed. As the price of metal has increased over the past few years, so, unsurprisingly, has the rate of metal theft.
In response to this epidemic, a security company called E-bound, based in Peterborough, has spent the past decade developing a unique alarm system, which it manufactures, specifies, installs and maintains for clients.
We have a few cathedrals
E-bound, a member of the National Churches Trust's Professional Trades Directory, now has nearly 1,200 churches on its books, as well as a castle, a few supermarkets and some restaurants, for whom it manages and services alarms, and it attracts new custom every week. “We haven’t quite cracked St Pauls’ in London, but have a few cathedrals,” says Hannah Goodley, operations manager at E-bound.
While the company started out thinking they could just adapt a run-of-the-mill burglar alarm, they soon realised that church roofs are such challenging environments to police that a more sophisticated alarm would have to be invented. “You need to get signals though thick stone walls and consider the presence of wildlife,” Goodley explains. “The system needs to be wireless because of conservation and it needs to be simple because there will be multiple people using it.” Furthermore, since churches vary enormously structurally, every system has to be slightly different.
Alarms fitted to every church
A great success story for the company has been the Suffolk diocese which had a big metal theft problem but managed to raise the funds so that they were able to saturate the whole diocese with an E-bound alarm system fitted to every church. After the alarms were installed, the thieves, who were doing up to four raids a night at the time, simply left the area. While the alarm system doesn’t necessarily mean the thief is caught, it has proven to be an excellent deterrent.
It works so that when an intruder enters, the alarm system is triggered and sends a signal through to the alarm receiving centre which calls on the key holders of the church to attend. Meanwhile, a booming voice command sounds telling the intruder to leave. It is so unexpected, it was dubbed “the voice of God” in an article in The Telegraph a few years ago, Goodley recalls. “People can attach that more to a person, someone observing them, rather than simply the sound of an alarm going off which you hear all the time. It is more intimidating.”
Then follows a short sharp sound, which is supposedly less easy to ignore than the ongoing beeping noise which is often associated with everyday car alarms. Finally, a strobe flashes for 20 minutes.
The E-bound alarm system saved the day
The system certainly seems to work. It saved St Bartholomew in Colne (picture gallery below), which was recently targeted three times in quick succession, from what would have been significant loss otherwise. On each occasion, the E-bound alarm system saved the day by scaring the intruders off empty-handed. One alarm system costs around £4,500, and once installed is serviced regularly by E-bound engineers.
“The main purpose of a roof alarm is to deter intruders from stealing the lead, detect intrusion at the earliest opportunity and reduce the risk of a significant loss occurring,” Goodley sums up. “Whilst St Bartholomew’s did suffer repeated attacks over a short period of time, the damage suffered was minimal and the intruders were not successful in removing any lead from the site.”
There are 16,000 Anglican churches in Britain, over 6,000 of which have precious metal on their roofs, so there’s plenty more business to be had for E-bound. While they do have a few Catholic churches on their books, they do tend to be targeted less because their roofs are much higher so lead is less obtainable. “The grandeur of the Catholic churches means they are not so accessible”, Goodley explains.
Profile by Olenka Hamilton
|Areas of coverage||United Kingdom|
|Contact name||Katie Woods|