With the current high demand for raw materials, we are seeing an increasing number of metal thefts occurring across the UK, with one of the most vulnerable targets being churches. Only recently a man was jailed in Royston for stealing lead from six churches and causing £186,000 of damage in the process.
This recent case highlights the prominence of metal thefts, particularly those occurring at churches. Whilst there has been a decline in metal theft offences since 2013, the Home Office believes this decrease has largely been in low-value “opportunistic” metal thefts, with large-scale gang-related robbery on the rise. One of the primary reasons it is believed that locations such as churches and railway lines are commonly targeted for metal theft is due to the low levels of guardianship, hence reducing the risk of perpetrators being caught. There is no denying that the implementation of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act in 2013 has helped to reduce the number of metal thefts, however it is also likely that the comparatively low prices at the time also played a role.
In fact, many have noted the correlation between the increase in metal prices (such as lead and copper) and the rise in thefts. ONS property crime data from 2017 supports this hypothesis, with metal theft figures increasing during that period as metal prices also soared.
This trend continued into 2018, with metal theft instances rising by 25% in last year alone and almost half of all these thefts (46%) being infrastructure-related offences.
Metal thefts can be incredibly costly, both for the economy and for victims themselves. According to Gov.uk, metal theft at its peak was estimated to cost the economy more than £220 million per year.
Though metal theft is often seen by its perpetrators as a victimless crime, the impact is very real for those who are stolen from. On top of the cost of damage caused, replacement of stolen materials and disruption to business, victims may also face an increase in insurance costs once they have made a claim.
If you would like to know more about the growing threat of church metal theft and how we respond to church claims, please get in touch with Steve Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org.