Churches unite against crime

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Police in South Ribble have launched a new network with churches in a bid to crackdown on lead thefts.

Church Watch has 25 churches signed up to it and will enable the police to provide information on crimes in the area as well as offer crime prevention advice.

Sgt Shirley Osborne said: "This scheme is basically a two-way network which allows us to communicate direct with churches and for them to come to us with any concerns.

"It is run in a similar way to Neighbourhood Watch and was set up in response to recent lead thefts which have targeted churches. It will be used to circulate details of suspects and information about any crimes and scams in the area.

"We would remind churches to be extra vigilant in relation to this type of crime, especially owners of older properties which may have lead on the roof, and we would ask residents to report any suspicious activity to us.

"Churches can also look at their CCTV, security lighting and apply anti-vandal paint to help prevent them from being targeted."

Since the beginning of December, police in South Ribble have received reports of six lead thefts at various premises including St Mary's Church in Bamber Bridge as well as a number of private households. Reports of other thefts have also been received including the theft of copper wiring from both business and private premises.

Police patrols have also been stepped up around churches in response to the thefts and officers have been visiting schools, businesses and local residents to offer some crime prevention advice.

Warrants have been executed on the homes of suspects, visits have been made to scrap yards and SmartWater – a unique liquid that allows goods to be traced – has been applied to some schools and churches.

In instances where lead is stolen, it has been replaced with a lead substitute to prevent the property from being targeted again.

Churches that want more information about the scheme can contact Crime Prevention Officer Beverley Warburton on 01172 625593.

If you would like to report an incident of lead theft, phone 0845 1253545 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.