The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Norfolk churches pledge to keep doors open

TrowseAndrewsLeadWebReligious leaders have pledged their determination to keep church doors open to the public despite a wave of thefts and vandalism across Norfolk.

In the latest incident challises and other ecclesiastical silverware worth several thousand pounds were stolen from St Helen's Church in Gurney Road, Costessey. Cash, cheque books and credit cards were also taken from the church playgroup.

Many are resorting to security cameras, alarms and other hi-tech crime fighting solutions. But crime reduction officers said congregations could take simple steps to stop offending.

The Rev Jan McFarlane, communications officer for the diocese of Norwich, said the biggest issue facing the region was the theft of lead roofing. Thousands have begun applying a DNA-style liquid to roofs to combat the “epidemic”.

But she added that petty crime was also a problem with smashed windows, graffiti and small-scale thefts often being reported.

“We have certainly noticed an increase ranging from the theft of valuable items, like roofing or precious artefacts, to small acts of vandalism which have a profound affect on the congregation,” she said.

“However, we intend to keep as many churches as possible open and accessible. This is not only because churches are supposed to be open but also because it sends out a message to criminals that all valuables have been removed. Also by encouraging people to come and go regularly we can hopefully discourage thieves.”

Lead thefts have become a huge problem for churches and schools across the UK due to soaring scrap metal prices. Other crimes have included stone ornaments being taken from St Peter and St Paul Church at Edgefield in north Norfolk and vandals plaguing St Nicholas' Church near Yarmouth. In July, yobs ransacked a church in Great Plumstead, desecrating graves, smashing windows and knocking crosses off the altar.

Vicar Nicholas Parry, from St Helen's Church, said items stolen included irreplaceable marriage registers. He said: “A lot of people have expressed surprise that somebody could steal from a church which obviously has limited resources and is obviously important to the community.”

Police are appealing for information following the burglary which happened on November 4. The silver taken from the church bears distinctive descriptions making it easily identifiable. The following day a stolen credit card from this burglary was used at a cash machine in Fakenham Road, Taverham.

Crime reduction officer Brian Moore said the force was happy to provide tailored advice to any church concerned about security. He added that it was difficult to offer general advice as all churches differ.

“Some churches are spending a huge amount of money on sophisticated systems but this is not an option everywhere,” he said. “Others are taking relatively simple steps such as arranging for volunteer witnesses to be in the church at all times or at least visit on a regular basis.”

Anyone with information about the latest burglary or the whereabouts of the stolen property should contact PC Mark Bandrowski at Wymondham Police Station on 0845 4564567 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Pictured above is Canon Michael Long outside St Andrew's Church, Trowse, where lead was recently stolen from the roof.

Article and picture courtesy of www.edp24.co.uk


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