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AN army of volunteers could be recruited to help protect churches and special historic sites

  • Published: 30-11-2018 at 12:11

AN army of volunteers could be recruited to help stop churches and special historic sites being targeted by thieves and vandals.

Lincolnshire PCC Marc Jones is considering the launch of a Heritage Watch scheme to help keep safeguard churches and historic sites across the county.

Heritage crime covers a wide range of offences – from illicit metal detecting to architectural theft – as well as theft of lead from church roofs.

In 2018 there have been 54 incidents of this type of crime, including 11 cases of lead theft.

When churches have lead stolen from the roof it can take months before the theft is noticed – often only coming to light when a roof leaks in the rain – making investigation of the crime very difficult.

Due to high costs many churches are not insured against theft or damage and repairs to a roof can cost up to £250,000. Incidents can have a devastating effect on the local congregation and the wider community as they struggle to raise the money necessary to carry our repairs.

It is hoped an organised group of volunteers who live close to the 500 scheduled monuments across the county can help create an early warning system of suspicious behaviour.

The idea emerged after Mr Jones called a summit meeting to discuss the problem. The meeting was attended by representatives of Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire County Council, Historic England, British Transport Police, Lincoln Diocese and Heritage Lincolnshire.

“The numbers may suggest that incidents of this type crime are quite low but the impact of each incident on our communities and our heritage can be devastating,” said Mr Jones.

“Investigations are often difficult because the crimes often happen in isolated locations and may not be discovered for some time. That’s why it is important that we find ways to prevent the crime in the first place.

“I believe our best chance of keeping our communities safe is if we all work together and a heritage watch scheme would give residents a chance to play a crucial role in safeguarding their own communities and important historical buildings and sites.

“We will be investigating the opportunity in the coming weeks.”