POLICE are calling on local communities for help after it emerged that lead from dozens of churches has been stolen this year.
Lincolnshire Police said around 50 churches have been targeted in about 60 different separate instances of theft since January.
The force is working to identify the most vulnerable sites with a view to dedicating more resources to them, but it says regular patrols of all churches is simply not possible.
Officers are asking residents to report all suspicious activity near churches, noting down detailed descriptions of people and cars.
Innovative solutions are also being sought and officers are working closely with churches to improve security.
“We are calling for the public to take a real interest in the security of their local church. We all have a responsibility and a role to play in making our communities safe and if we work together we can make a real impact on this issue,” said chief inspector Mark Housley.
“The key here is early reporting in terms of descriptions of people and cars, particularly registration plates. We want you to act on your instincts and report any activity you think is out of the ordinary, you won’t be wasting our time – your information could lead to the arrests we need.”
“Stealing a large amount of lead takes time and a reasonably large vehicle to transport it – it’s not a five minute job so lets all be on the lookout for them.”
Thieves wreaked havoc at St Lawrence’s Parish Church in Corringham in April when they stole lead from the roof and knocked over headstones – causing between £5,000 and £10,000 worth of damage.
They used a crowbar to lever off nine sheets of lead from the roof.
One of the main factors in the rise of lead theft is unscrupulous scrap dealers weighing large amounts of stolen scrap with a ‘no questions asked’ attitude, according to police.
Even reputable dealers are only legally obliged to record the name and address of the person weighing the scrap and do not have to ask for identification.
Work is being done on a national level to tighten up the regulation of the industry and put pressure on dealers to keep better records and move away from a cash-in-hand culture, but police say this could take more than a year to happen.