Keep an eye out for churches

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PEOPLE in the countryside are being asked to keep a watchful eye on their village church in a bid to deter criminals.

Churches have been targeted by thieves who have stolen lead worth thousands of pounds from roofs and now churches are battling back.

A special Churchwatch seminar was held in Earl Stonham last Thursday where church members met police, insurers, members of the Mid Suffolk Crime Prevention Panel and the diocese to hear about the latest ways to guard against theft.

The majority of churches in the county now use SmartWater, a forensic marking solution which is applied to lead on the roof and can also be transferred onto the criminal, linking them to the crime scene.

It is invisible to the naked eye, but detectable by police and licensed scrap metal dealers using specialised equipment. Stolen lead can then be traced back to the church it was stolen from, and the thief apprehended.

Mid Suffolk Crime Reduction Officer Georgi Hawkes, who organised the seminar, said communities are just as important in preventing and detecting crime as the more high-tech solutions.

People should look out for unusual activity such as large vehicles, people with ladders or suspicious noioses.

She said people should alert the churchwarden to check they are legimitimate and if in doubt dial police on 999.