A national campaign is under way to save thousands of churches from further damage by criminals stealing lead from their roofs.

The ‘Hands Off Our Church Roofs’ campaign has been launched by church insurer, Ecclesiastical, which is investing £500,000 of its own money to install roof alarms free of charge on some of the country’s most badly affected churches. Signage will then be displayed at all churches to warn thieves of the existence of church roof alarms in the area. 

2011 was the worst year on record for church metal theft claims. Ecclesiastical received more than 2,600 metal theft claims from churches by the end of the year, surpassing the previous worst figure of more than 2,400 in 2008.

Other aspects of British life which have been badly affected by metal theft include transport, utilities, communications, health and many more.

John Coates, Ecclesiastical’s director of church insurance said: “The attack on Britain’s churches has reached catastrophic proportions and we simply have to do something about it. Every day, an average of seven churches is targeted by criminals, who see them as easy pickings. This campaign will ensure they won’t be easy anymore.

“Stage two,” he adds, “is for other churches to purchase their own alarm systems and thus ensure we make our buildings as hard a target as possible for metal thieves.” 

The alarms use concealed sensors on the church’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.

Ecclesiastical has already piloted the use of roof alarms in more than 100 churches over the last few years. The insurer’s experience has shown that where roof alarms have been fitted, metal thefts have reduced significantly or stopped completely.

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