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Church roof theft "epidemic"

Anglican churches are being ransacked in increasing numbers by organised gangs who steal scrap metal to sell abroad. Six churches a day are being targeted to meet the soaring demand for lead and copper, particularly in China. Ecclesiastical Insurance, which covers 95% of Anglican churches, has received more than 2,000 claims in 2007 in contrast to 80 claims in 2005. Lead roofing is the usual target but statues, church bells and copper lightening conductors are also being taken. Speaking to MRW, ecclesiastical Insurance spokesman Chris Pitt said: Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol and London are being particularly hard hit because they are industrial centres. These organised gangs will target whatever metal they can get their hands on, including gates and guttering. Sometimes several guys with a van can get away with several tonnes of metal and churches are targeted at any time of the day. Experts say there is a direct link between the thefts and the boom in metal prices, driven by rapid growth in Asian economies. Anglican churches are particularly vulnerable because they have a lot of lead on their roofs, added Pitt. The theft of lead has led to water damage because of leaky roofs, stonework damage and damage to organs. It is no exaggeration to call it an epidemic and the worst of all trends that has hit the church. Churches are not the only places that thieves have targeted; scrap yards and railways have both been victims of metal theft. A British Metals Recycling Association spokesman said: It is a problem not only in churches but many scrap yards have had scrap stolen from them as well. Material theft is a big problem for railways and is the second major threat they have to deal with after terrorism. Some signal copper wiring has been stolen from the traffic signals. Ecclesiastical Insurance is now supplying churches with a special solution called SmartWater to protect their valuable metals. Owners can paint the solution on their property and then if the property is stolen it can be traced back to its owners. Pitt said: Members of the public need to be a lot more cynical when it comes to workmen in the church because they could be stealing lead from them.

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