Community leaders in Suffolk have announced new measures to help churches which have suffered at the hands of lead thieves in recent months.
In total 12 churches including in Lavenham and Groton have been hit by lead thieves, leaving communities devastated and causing damage worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
On Tuesday the Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Rachel Kearton, assistant chief constable of Suffolk police, joined members of the church community and police force at St Mary’s Church in Combs, near Stowmarket, to reveal a new package of measures to combat the crime wave.
These include a Church Security document, which gives guidance and advice to prevent thefts such as installing CCTV cameras and alarms, and encouragement to communities to help safeguard their local church.
Bishop Martin said: “We have seen an extraordinary response from the people in the villages affected. For me it has heightened the sense of how valuable these buildings are for everyone and for the identity of the community.”
Matt Rose, head of community safety for Suffolk police, said: “These are awful crimes, causing many thousands of pounds worth of damage to some of the most beautiful buildings in our county.
“It is really important people take an active role in looking after their communities.”
The announcement comes as Matt Hancock, MP for West Suffolk, is calling on the Government to help fund repairs for targeted churches by considering them for the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund.
Mr Hancock said: “Our beautiful Suffolk churches are much loved places of worship and a central part of our village communities.
“It is totally unacceptable that they should be damaged, and I will work to protect and repair them.”
Mr Hancock said he will work with fellow Suffolk MPs Jo Churchill and James Cartlidge to support work to replace the stolen lead.
Chris Childs, Reverend of St Mary’s Church in Combs, said the building had seen a boost in visitors numbers since it was targeted by lead thieves in August.
“We have had practical help and a considerable amount of advice from the Diocese and Suffolk police for which we are very grateful,” he said.
“There has been remarkable amount of support for the church from the community because they identify it as their own building and they want to see it maintained.”
In the wake of the thefts the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust (SHCT) has launched an Alarms for Churches Appeal, to allow alarms systems to be installed quickly. The trust has offered to cover half of the cost involved, up to a value of £2,500 per church.