'Unscrupulous thieves' target Suffolk churches

St Mary's Parish Church, Bures 

St Mary's Parish Church, Bures - Credit: Google Maps

Several Suffolk churches have been targeted by "unscrupulous thieves" over the past three months - prompting a rural police officer to urge communities to be vigilant. 

Silver was stolen from St Margaret's Church in Cowlinge between June 12 and July 10 while a collection box was taken from the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Wangford on July 8. 

The Church of Saint Peter in Little Thurlow, near Haverhill, saw lead taken from its roof on May 27, and thieves also attempted to steal lead from the roof of St Mary's Parish Church in Bures St Mary on June 23. 

On that occasion, ladder and tools were found at the scene by police after a roof alarm sounded.  

Sgt Brian Calver and his team deal with a number of crimes relating to wildlife and countryside living here in Suffolk

Sgt Brian Calver, from Suffolk police's rural crime team, urged churches to invest in roof alarms - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk police's rural crime and wildlife team, stressed the importance of churches having a roof alarm system in place. 

He said: "The high-market value of lead does make it a real target for unscrupulous thieves.

"When these offences occur, it's not just the loss of materials, you've got the repair costs often running into tens of thousands of pounds. 

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"Many thefts around the country are thwarted by roof alarms. I get notifications from the company that supplies most of them, a company called E-Bound AVX, who have got Secured by Design (official police security initiative) accreditation. 

"Most Suffolk churches have got roof alarms but there are a few that haven't and I'd really urge those churches to consider it because if you get hit twice, you're talking tens of thousands of pounds. 

"I know it's difficult because a lot of the churches haven't got a great deal of money, especially the smaller local ones. 

"There are other measures they can take, things like making sure ladders or anything else providing elevated access is removed or locked away, considering anti-vandal paint on drain pipes, and it's just a case of briefing locals and launching community watch groups." 

Sgt Calver also urged churches to think about security measures inside the buildings. 

"In relation to the burglary prevention, it is really difficult because it's right and proper that they are left unlocked for all to enjoy and access," he added. 

"However, it's a case of looking what you can do - is your safe up to scratch? Do you need a new safe?  Get really good quality photographs of anything you keep in there. 

"We've got these lovely historic buildings that have been part of the fabric of villages and towns for many centuries, and most people respect them for what they but sadly some people have no morals whatsoever."