Churches risk being ‘engulfed by a crimewave’, campaigners warn, after more than 5,000 offences were recorded last year
- An average of 13 crimes a day were committed between July 2019 and July 2020
- This was despite a four month lockdown and offences included arson and rape
- Items stolen included 300-year-old brass bell from England’s smallest church
Britain risks being ‘engulfed by a church crimewave’ according to campaigners after new figures showed that more than 5,000 crimes were committed on religious premises last year.
Despite the four month coronavirus lockdown, an average of 13 crimes a day were committed between July 2019 and July 2020 including rape, arson and drug trafficking.
Figures from 37 of the country’s 45 territorial police forces showed there were 5,367 incidents of theft, vandalism, assault or burglary across the UK in just 12 months.
The Metropolitan Police recorded some 1,106 crimes in religious locations which include 250 cases of violence against the person, 273 burglaries, 188 offences of arson and criminal damage and 371 thefts – an average of more than one day.
Items stolen included a 300 year old brass bell from England’s smallest church in Wiltshire and a money box from a Gloucester church taken on Boxing Day after thieves broke in to search through the nativity scene.
Britain risks being ‘engulfed by a church crimewave’ according to campaigners after new figures showed that more than 5,000 crimes were committed on religious premises last year
The figures were provided by the Countryside Alliance as part of a call to focus attention on rural churches and increase funding for security at places of worship.
This year 90 places of worship are being added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register with almost half included because of the impact of crime such as lead theft.
The Countryside Alliance figures show that some 278 lead thefts were recorded in just 12 months including the roof of the 15th century St John the Baptist church in Somerset that has left the parish with a bill for £41,600 in repairs.
Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said: ‘The latest set of figures, out only a year after the incredibly distressing numbers in 2019, make for horrific reading.
‘We cannot risk being engulfed by a church crime wave and clearly more needs to be done to tackle this problem.
‘Taking into account that during some of this year, the country was in lockdown, it is chilling to learn that criminals either acting alone or in gangs have taken advantage of this awful pandemic and continued to target rural churches.’
In the West Midlands there was 146 violent assaults on church property ranging from racially or religiously aggravated harassment, malicious wounding and an assault on a male child by penetration.
Items stolen in Nottinghamshire include everything from apples to work tools, with records showing handbags, plant pots, a CCTV camera and even food for collection among items stolen.
Sussex Police recorded ‘exposure and voyeurism’ in one local cemetery while sexual offences in the area’s churchyards included six sexual assaults on a female aged 13 or over.
Crimes in South Yorkshire churches and cemeteries included incidents of drug trafficking, possession of weapons charges and three rapes of a female child under 13.
Churches in Suffolk meanwhile recorded cases of assault by beating of a constable and the theft of a motor vehicle while shoplifting and stolen bikes were documented in West Mercia.