A national campaign to save Britainâ€™s churches from further damage by criminals stealing lead from their roofs was launched today and features on the front page of diocesan newspaper The Wey
- published on February 27.
Hands Off Our Church Roofs
aims to see sophisticated electronic alarm systems installed on the roofs of British Anglican churches across the country.
The campaign has been launched by the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) â€“ the specialist insurer of over 96% of the countryâ€™s Anglican churches - which is investing Â£500,000 of its own money to install roof alarms free of charge on some of the countryâ€™s most badly affected churches.
Hands Off Our Church Roofs
is backed by the Church of England Church Buildings Council, the Association of Chief Police Officers and Minister of State for the Home office Lord Henley.
EIG will fit alarms to churches in most of the 42 mainland English dioceses and a number of alarms in Scotland and Wales. Signage will then be displayed at all churches to warn thieves of the existence of church roof alarms in the area.
The first stage of the campaign is for Ecclesiastical to fit these alarms free of charge to the most at-risk churches in the country. Details of these churches wonâ€™t be revealed which in itself will create a deterrent as all churches in the area will display signage.
St Michaelâ€™s and All Angelsâ€™ Church, Pirbright, in the Diocese of Guildford was just one of the many churches affected by metal theft, when it was targeted twice last year â€“ leaving it with an unexpected Â£10,000 repair bill.
Stage two â€“ and this is where EIG is seeking broad public support â€“ is for other churches to purchase their own alarm systems and ensure our churches are as hard a target as possible for metal thieves.
The alarms use concealed sensors on the churchâ€™s roof to detect the presence of a metal thief. Upon activation, the alarms emit powerful blue flashing lights to draw attention to the church while speakers broadcast a loud, recorded message warning the criminal that an alarm has been activated. Depending on the agreement with the alarm company, an alarm signal will be sent to a remote monitoring unit and will trigger security personnel to attend the scene.
EIG has already piloted the use of roof alarms in more than 100 churches over the last few years. The insurerâ€™s experience has shown that where roof alarms have been fitted, metal thefts have reduced significantly or stopped completely.
2011 was the worst year on record for church metal theft claims â€“ EIG received more than 2,600 claims from churches by the end of the year.
Anne Sloman, Chair, Church of England Church Buildings Council, said: â€œAlthough we are campaigning vigorously for legislation to regulate scrap yards (a cash for scrap ban was announced in January), we also have a responsibility to do everything we can to help ourselves. We urge parishes to look carefully at the benefits of roof alarms which do offer extra protection.â€
The campaignâ€™s website is www.ecclesiastical.com/handsoff