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Church lead theft

Alert message sent 18/09/2018 07:57:00

Information sent on behalf of Thames Valley Police

Good Morning we have been advised that there has been some theft of lead from churches just over the borders.

Keeping your church

open and secure

If any building should operate an ‘open door’ policy, it’s a church.

Unfortunately, crime figures suggest that an open door to an empty

church is an invitation to less-than-welcome visitors. However, there

are things that you can do to protect your church and its contents

and still keep the church open to the community


At a recent conference looking at the

problem of theft from churches, one crime reduction officer said: “My advice would be to lock up everything.” Ecclesiastical endorses that advice, but adds the caveat,“except the front door”.

Keeping churches open outside of services of worship is a vital element in the link they

have with the community they serve. An open door enables people to find a quiet place to pray, it offers somewhere to sit and think, and it enables visitors to the area to enjoy any historical treasures you may have. A steady flow of legitimate visitors also helps deter those with criminal intent.

If you can, try to have someone on duty in the church at all times by having a rota of church sitters, or organise cleaning, grass cutting and other routine activities so that there is someone in the church or churchyard for as much of the time as possible. If that is not realistic, you may be able to achieve a compromise by organising set hours when volunteers are available,which can be displayed on the door.

Remember though that someone left on their own could be at risk, so you need to

have measures in place for their personal safety. Ideally, church sitters should work in

teams of two, they need to have some form of communication such as a mobile phone,

and consideration should be given to providing personal attack alarms connected

to an alarm system. There also needs to be someone readily available to respond to an

alarm call.

All portable valuables should be marked with an Ecclesiastical-approved forensic

marker such as SmartWater, and associated signage should be displayed

prominently outside the church to deter thieves. Lock away in a safe as many

valuable and portable items as possible - certainly any silverware and also, if possible,

brass and pewter items as these metals also have a value to thieves. The vestry

can be used as a lockable area for smaller items of furniture and furnishings. To

reduce the risk of arson, anything that could be used to start or feed a fire should

be removed or locked away.

If a theft does occur, recovery is very much easier if there are photographs of all

valuables and portable furniture. Keep two sets of photographs, one in the safe and

one in a safe place away from the church.

Making the church building a focal point for the wider community can be a way not only

of attracting visitors, but also of having people on site whose presence will deter

thieves. In communities where local facilities are scarce or non-existent, some

churches are playing their part by hosting activities such as post offices, village shops

and even farmers’ markets. One such is St Giles, Langford in the Diocese of

Chelmsford which has opened a small village shop in its vestry. The vision behind

the project was to make the church more accessible to people, to provide a service

for the village and to enable parishioners to get to know other people in the community.

It has brought villagers together and the church has benefited from an increased

number of visitors. Although complex to instigate, projects such as this do have the

knock-on benefit of the broader community developing a stronger commitment to their

parish church and also helping ensure its security because they feel a greater sense

of involvement and ownership.

There are many ways of ensuring the security of your church whilst offering

hospitality to people for whom this might make all the difference to their lives.

More advice and security guidance notes can be found at

Useful information such as how your

building can be used for the community can

be found at








Message sent by
Louise Beaumont (Police, PCSO, Bicester)

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