Ecclesiastical Insurance’s Risk Management Director Jo Whyman talks about metal theft, the challenges it presents churches and how you can prevent your church from becoming an easy target for thieves.
Theft of metal is an ongoing challenge, and unfortunately one that has affected churches in particular. Data compiled by the Office for National Statistics estimates that metal crime costs the UK an average of £370million, with almost 16,000 instances of metal theft in 2019 alone.
Putting aside the irreplaceable loss of heritage, the financial loss arising from thefts goes beyond the cost of just replacing the stolen metal. Damage to stonework caused during the course of the theft can be significant, as well as water damage to internal furnishings if it rains before the theft of roof coverings is discovered.
The impact it can have on church communities can’t be overstated either, with a significant emotional as well as financial impact on all involved.
In recent years we have seen instances of lead and copper roof coverings, including bay window roofs and roof flashings, copper lightning conductors, lead and copper rainwater pipes, bronze statues, metal garden ornaments, iron gates and even church bells all being stolen.
Increased demand for metals, together with speculative investment in base metals by financial investors, has meant the rewards for thieves are high. As a result thieves are becoming increasingly organised, often operating in gangs, and bold in their attacks on properties.
This has seen a significant reduction in opportunistic theft of lead from churches, with thieves now targeting larger, more lucrative hauls of metal. While the number of claims received by Ecclesiastical reduced in 2019 compared to 2018, the average claim reported for metal theft from churches rose by almost 5%.
This year has thrown up unprecedented challenges for many, including the closure of church buildings, and the economic situation in the country could well see an increase in thefts as the value of metal prices increases and reputable channels of acquiring metal are restricted.
Ecclesiastical is committed to helping reduce the incidence of metal theft and is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Combating Metal Theft.
Working with partners including OPAL, a national intelligence unit focused on serious organised acquisitive crime (SOAC), and Heritage England, Ecclesiastical is supporting Metal and Waste Crime Week of Action (12th-16th October 2020) to help raise awareness of the risks but also provide guidance on steps churches and heritage buildings can take to secure their premises.
We have published a check list to help churches to improve the security at their premises to reduce the possibility of theft. Measures such as the use of SmartWater®, displaying prominent signage, electronic roof security systems or CCTV will reduce the risk of a theft occurring, while other good housekeeping activities can also help.
Making sure that vegetation is cut back, access to the roof via bins or water butts is prevented, locking gates to prevent vehicle access and even asking neighbours to keep an eye on the church outside of hours can all help prevent your church becoming a victim of this devastating crime.
In spite of COVID-19 our teams are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for metal theft to be reported by calling 0345 603 8381. You can also contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by writing to Claims Department, Ecclesiastical, Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. You can find further information at www.ecclesiastical.com/theftofmetal.
For further risk management advice Ecclesiastical customers can also call our risk advice line on 0345 600 7531 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm excluding bank holidays) or email us at email@example.com.