Counting the cost of metal theft

St. James, West Derby has unfortunately become the latest victim of metal theft in our diocese. We spoke to Ian Simpson, Heritage Officer about practical steps your parish can take to lessen the risk of your church being targeted and deter would-be thieves.

Lead is an integral part of the church roof, its removal can lead to consequential damage through water ingress and the costs involved in repairing this – scaffolding etc. Not only this, additional damage to the building can be caused by the act of removing the metal and by the thieves’ attempts to access and escape from the building in the process of committing the crime. It is possible that considerable damage may be caused even if no metal is taken.

This cost can run into thousands of pounds worth of damage, of which insurance does not completely cover, often only the first £5,000. Typically repair bills can be in excess of £10,000 with one particular example of a bill for £40,000! The impact of these crippling costs can cause considerable disruption to the life of the church and a serious setback to the congregation.

Ian Simpson, Heritage Officer said “I was very sorry to learn that the historic church of St. James, West Derby, had become the target of a criminal gang of metal thieves. The damage caused to the building – which houses one of the city’s most significant war memorials – is immense and will cost many thousands of pounds to make good, not all of which will be covered by insurance. To see a place of prayer violated in this way is heartbreaking. It’s not just the building though: the effect upon the morale of the worshipping community which has called this church “home” for many decades (and who must now divert their efforts away from the church’s mission in order to repair the building) cannot be quantified. Thankfully, through the vigilance of a neighbour, the gang responsible has been apprehended.”

Sue Dalkin church warden at St James spoke of the incident “Unfortunately the thieves came back the following night and stripped the other side of the roof. Luckily a neighbour saw them and called the police and two men were arrested but we still have to replace that lead also. Hopefully that will be the end of it but it would be best for other churches to be aware of the possibility.”

Ian has produced a booklet, approved by The Liverpool Diocese Advisory Committee, containing practical steps you can take to help protect your church.
The download is available to the right of this article.

The most important steps are free and simple to implement:
  • Be vigilant – encourage people in the community to report any suspicious activity around the church.
  • Don’t leave ladders, bins or anything else near to the building for potential thieves to climb upon.

Read the booklet for more information on additional steps that can be taken, including installing roof alarms which have proven to be effective.
Other points to consider:
  • Smartwater which Ecclesiastical Insurance requires churches to apply as a condition of their policy has a finite working life of around three years after which it becomes ineffective. We would encourage churches to reapply Smartwater every three years therefore in order to ensure that it remains useful.
  • Churches which are particularly vulnerable may well benefit from the Home Office’s Places of Worship Security Grants which will cover up to 80% of the cost of improved security measures.