Church watch pilot scheme

PLACES of worship in Doncaster are to get a helping hand with security as part of a pilot scheme being introduced by South Yorkshire Police.

Saturday, 22nd September 2007, 9:38 am

Officers in Doncaster are currently setting up a new initiative called Worship Watch which will see churches, mosques and temples benefit from better levels of protection.

The pilot scheme, which will be rolled out across South Yorkshire if successful, has been drawn up in the wake of a rising number of lead and copper thefts from churches because of an increase in the market value of the metals

Lead is traditionally used to line church roofs and, once stripped, the building is left virtually defenceless against the elements.

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A recent report by Ecclesiastical Insurance revealed Sheffield diocese had been worst hit by lead thefts with insurance claims soaring as a result.

One church - St Nicholas at Bawtry - has been repeatedly attacked.

But Det Supt Bill Hotchkiss, crime manager for Doncaster, has decided to tackle the problem head on.

"Here in South Yorkshire we are aware of the problem and we want to reassure people we are doing something about it.

"I am currently in the process of setting up Worship Watch – a new initiative that will see the police, the public and the different faith groups join together to tackle this type of crime."

Police are currently sending out letters to properties they have identified as potential "responsible neighbours" who will be asked to report any suspicious sightings and officers will visit all the scrap metal dealers in Doncaster to examine their records.

"The scrap metal industry is well regulated and scrap yards keep records of where their goods come from," said Det Supt Hotchkiss. "By examining the records we will be able to track the metal back to its original source.

"I am also going to hold a meeting with the dealers to develop a close working relationship in which we share information and intelligence with one another."

All places of worship will be welcome to join the scheme. "Some of the newer mosques or temples use different materials to lead but they can still benefit from being a part of the scheme."