CHURCHES in the Rye area are being warned to be on their guard due to a rising number of metal thefts.
Churches are the latest to be targeted by thieves who have been stripping buildings, and even war memorials of metal to sell on to scrap dealers.
Last year saw thousands of pounds worth of damage caused to Iden Cricket Pavilion after metal was stripped from the building and homes at Rye and Winchelsea have had lead stripped from porch roofs.
The latest warning follows a new national survey from Ecclesiastical, one of the top insurers of church buildings in the country,
The survey claims 2011 was the worst year on record for theft of metal claims from churches with the number of claims exceeding 2,500 by the end of the year.
Ecclesiastical director John Coates said: “2011 was a very tough year with incidents of metal theft from churches becoming virtually endemic. If there is any light at the end of the tunnel, it’s the groundswell of public awareness of the problem this year and the growing sense of outrage.
“Our survey shows that the public does not want this state of affairs to continue and will support action to crack down on metal thieves and the methods they use to gain money for their stolen goods. We believe it’s important that the government takes note of this mood and takes immediate action to tighten up the law, particularly the Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964.”
Ecclesiastical has successfully trialled and piloted the use of roof alarms in churches that have been targeted by metal thieves repeatedly. As a result of the trial they will be launching a new country-wide anti-metal theft campaign which promotes a wider use of roof alarms.
Rye Police has its own response to the problem of metal theft, called Operation Motor and last year smashed a gang who were targeting the Rye area.
Sergeant Warren Downs said: “It is very common across the country at the moment with unemployment levels increasing as well as the price being paid for scrap metal at an all time high.
“Isolated premises are being targeted where security is very often poor.”