POLICE have urged the public to help in the fight with unscrupulous lead thieves - after it was revealed that nearly one in ten of the county’s churches have been hit so far this year.
Since January roughly 50 of the county’s 600+ churches have been targeted in around 60 separate incidents.
But with so many churches to watch, police have warned it is unrealistic for them to keep tabs on all of them without “significant” help from local communities.
And they have urged the public to do their part in the fight.
Chief Inspector, Mark Housley, said: “We are calling for the public to take a real interest in the security of their local church.
“We all have a responsibility and a role to play in making our communities safe and if we work together we can make a real impact on this issue.
“The key here is early reporting in terms of descriptions of people and cars, particularly registration plates.
“We want you to act on your instincts and report any activity you think is out of the ordinary, you won’t be wasting our time.
“Stealing a large amount of lead takes time and a reasonably large vehicle to transport it – it’s not a five minute job so let us all be on the lookout for them.”
Officers are working to identify the most vulnerable sites with a view to dedicating more resources to them. Police are also working with churches to improve security.
The problem is part of an ongoing issue with lead theft across the county. In the last year hundreds of private homes, schools, colleges, libraries, doctors’ surgeries and even a crematorium have been targeted by criminals. One of the main factors is unscrupulous scrap dealers weighing large amounts of stolen scrap with “no questions asked”.