Churches count the cost of lead thefts in worried parishes

| May 10, 2010

LEAD thefts from church roofs around Derbyshire have cost insurers an estimated £450,000 in the past five years.

The soaring global prices of precious metals and the difficult economic conditions have led to an increase in the number of lead thefts.

Churches are having to pay-out for the extra cost of any annual claims over £5,000 and, with insurance premiums continuing to rise, some parishioners believe the problem could drive them into debt.

One of the churches affected is St Clement's, in Horsley, which has been targeted a number of times in the past few years.

Church co-warden Jan Jones said: "We have put CCTV cameras in to try to ward off thieves. We have also had the drain pipes painted with a slippy paint and had the lead painted with "smart water" which gives the lead a kind of traceable DNA fingerprint.

"But still people try and steal it. The economic situation seems to have encouraged more people to steal it to make money and the price of lead has gone sky-high.

"In the last five years the problem has got worse and we have got to the point where we can't pay for the new lead.

"The insurers can only cover £5,000 of claims a year from each church, which is a problem, and the lead costs more than a few years ago.

"Also, before the problems became so widespread, the insurance would cover churches for annual claims of up to £15,000."

Insurer Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG) said estimated costs of metal theft claims made in Derbyshire since 2005 stands at more than £450,000.

It also said that, out of 65 dioceses in the country, Derbyshire was the 17th most hit by metal thefts in 2009, with three more claims already in 2010.

Last year, Derbyshire police met with clergy after a spate of thefts in 2008 when thieves caused more than £150,000 of damage, with churches making 58 claims to insurers for metal thefts.

Archdeacon of Derby Christopher Cunliffe said the effect of the thefts went deeper than just the physical damage.

"It is worrying that so many thefts are taking place and we will be monitoring the situation carefully," he said.

"The effect on local communities can be devastating, not just for financial reasons but for the sense that a much-loved community building has been violated."

Derek Corbett, steward of St Thomas Road Methodist Church, in Normanton, said thieves had struck twice in one year, but replacing the lead with a similar alternative had stopped them returning. He said: "It does a similar job but it would be worthless to someone who stole it. Since then we have had no more problems."

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Category: Church Security

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