Police crackdown after spate of thefts from Derbyshire churches

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A scheme aimed at keeping a watch over church buildings is set to expand across the Derbyshire Dales following a successful launch in Bakewell.

Safer Neighbourhood teams in Ashbourne, Bakewell, Matlock and surrounding villages are asking residents to be vigilant following an increase in suspicious activity and thefts from churches in the area.

Over recent weeks, police have seen an increase in suspicious activity and thefts from church buildings, whereby large quantities of lead have been stripped from roofs, and items of silver being stolen from the vestry.

Incidents have taken place across communities, including Bradley All Saints Church in Ashbourne, St Mary’s Church in Wirksworth, and St Andrew’s Church in Radbourne.

In order to tackle the issue, Safer Neighbourhood officers will be heading out on the beat to sign up churches to the scheme to help to protect them against thieves and vandals.

The policing teams will be visiting churches to offer advice around the steps that can be taken to increase security, including installing wildlife cameras around the churchyard to capture potential thieves in the act.

PCSO Ian Phipps marked the launch of the scheme in the Bakewell and Tideswell communities in December last year, and the initiative is now set to expand.

PCSO Kate Wakefield will be leading the initiative in the Ashbourne villages, with PCSO Peter Jones driving the scheme in Matlock.

Sergeant Andy Wordsworth, who oversees Safer Neighbourhood policing across the Derbyshire Dales, said: “We have recently seen an increase in thieves targeting church buildings to take the lead from the roofs.

“This scheme is all about working alongside the churches to provide them with the extra security that they need to help to further protect the building from being targeted by opportunists.

“As part of the initiative, we are also encouraging residents who live in the vicinity of a church to sign up and report any suspicious activity so that we can protect our churches from theft.

“The more people that sign up to Church Watch, the more effective it will be. We are keen to hear from anyone interested in joining the scheme either by phone or over email.”

To find out more about the Church Watch scheme in your community, call PCSO Kate Wakefield, PCSO Ian Phipps or PCSO Peter Jones on 101, the non-emergency number for Derbyshire police.

To report suspicious activity, call 101, the non-emergency number for Derbyshire police. Always dial 999 if a crime is in action.