Bible, lectern and communion wine among more than 100 thefts from Norfolk churches

A Bible, candles, a lectern, silverware and even communion wine were among items stolen by criminals targeting Norfolk's churches, new figures have revealed.

According to figures released by Norfolk police, it is not just the lead which thieves have been stealing from the county's churches.

A Freedom Of Information request has showed how, between the start of November 2010 and the end of October last year, there were 163 reports of theft and vandalism at churches, graveyards and cemeteries.

Almost half the crimes involved the theft of lead or windows being smashed, but it also revealed everything from red wine to a table and a poppy appeal collection tin were taken.

Flowers were snatched from graves, headstones and a wooden bench were damaged and a marble cross was stolen.


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In only 11 of the cases did the police solve the crimes.

A Norfolk Constabulary spokesman said: 'Like other areas across the UK, Norfolk has seen a rise in metal thefts, including the theft of lead from churches.

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'This is fuelled by the high price of new and scrap metals. Churches are often targeted due to their remote locations and limited lighting and security.

'We would encourage all churches to consider the installation of lighting, CCTV and/or roof alarms. Smartwater is also a valuable tool against metal theft and has been used across Norfolk to mark roof lead and other items to make them identifiable at a later date.

'We will continue to work with local churches to try and reduce these crimes.

'One option is the use of lead alternatives and we are aware some churches have gone down this route.

'We would encourage others to consider this option where possible.'

Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich, said: 'Any theft is very distressing for those concerned, as anyone who has had their house broken into will know.

'These are God's houses and people care greatly about them, so it causes a huge amount of distress.

'What I always want to do, when these people are caught, is to get those people to work in the churches so they can see what they mean to people. And I think one of the best deterrents is for churches to be open.

'That way, people are about and it is not such a target as a church which is closed. It also means it is available for the community to use.'

In May 2009, criminals even stole the centuries-old floor of St Peter's Church, in Crostwick, taking about 50 tiles from the porch, which had been at the entrance of the church for more than 500 years.

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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