Churches and cathedrals are taking increased security measures after a wave of stained glass and lead thefts across the country amounting to an average 19 incidents per day.
Churches have seen the number of vandalism and theft offences double in recent years, with some 20,000 documented cases between 2017 and 2019, according to figures from the Church Conservation Trust (CCT).
Peterborough Cathedral is one of many sites to hire additional security staff to tackle the rise in crime.
“We have moved from employing one security officer to three so it is covered all the times it is open,” Reverend Ian Black of Peterborough Cathedral told The Sun.
Father Stephen Anderson of St Botolph’s Church in Cambridge has called it a “national epidemic”.
The UK’s recent bad weather has also contributed to the problem with opportunists stealing lead from church roofs “under the cover of storms”.
It comes as the price of lead reaches an all-time high, which the National Crime Agency says is driving a spate of thefts in the UK.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells claims four churches in Somerset have had lead stripped from their buildings in the past week as the severe weather has covered the noise of thieves and allowed them to go unnoticed.
For example, St Martin's Church in the village of Kingsbury Episcopi had an estimated six tonnes of lead stolen during Storm Dennis which first hit the UK on 15th February, while churches in Meare, Middlezoy and Barrington have also been targeted, according to the BBC.
Emma Brown, the church building advisor for the diocese, estimates some 20 churches have been targeted by lead thieves in the last six months.
This has raised concerns for some parishes, which say insurance won’t cover the cost of the damage done to its buildings.
Some churches have reached out to local communities for additional funding in an attempt to replace stained-glass windows and lead roofing, while others have installed CCTV to help prevent further attacks.