The past is very much in the present for Rother heritage crime officer Daryl Holter, a specialist role over and above his duties as a police community support officer.
Daryl, 36, whose rural patch also lends itself to his other speciality, wildlife crime, is passionate about protecting buildings and artefacts that often date back over hundreds of years.
To many criminals churches, historic houses, post-boxes and other examples of times past are simply sources of illicit gain or diversion, to be exploited with no regard to what they may represent to the communities in which they are located.
Church offertory boxes, for example, are forced open or stolen for the donations they may contain, damaging or removing an item which has been part of the church fabric for centuries.
Or stained glass windows, testament to the skills of medieval craftsmen, are smashed beyond repair - destroying in a moment of mindlessness something that has been a familiar to and appreciated by generations.
“The impact of such crimes is immeasurable. Even though items might be restored or replaced, the link to the past has gone forever,” Daryl said.
“As such, heritage crime can have a devastating impact on communities, far outweighing the material loss suffered, and it underlines the need for constant vigilance on the part of everyone to whom such things are important.”
The past year has seen a safe forcibly removed from a wall at St Phillip’s Church, Burwash, causing damage to stonework far in excess of the contents of the safe.
In October, vandals caused irreparable damage to a stained glass window at St George’s Church, Crowhurst, near Battle.
And during the same month almost 80 sandstone slabs were stolen from St Mary’s House, Bramber, West Sussex.
Victorian and Georgian post boxes, often ornately embellished, have been finding a ready market among unscrupulous collectors, often living abroad, and memorial benches in parks and churchyards haver similarly vanished at the hands of thieves.
“We’ve had great support from partner agencies and the public in trying to deter or detect such crimes, but the message for 2016 has to be for communities never to drop their guard and to report anything suspicious without delay,” Daryl said.
Daryl has written an accompanying 11-page report which includes a full round-up of his heritage crime works for 2015.
If a crime is thought to be in progress, phone 999 and ask for police.
Another alternative is to contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, which can be done without having to leave a name, on 0800 555 111 or via its website on www.crimestoppers-uk.org
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