“Shocking” new figures show that around twelve crimes affect churches or other religious buildings every day.
Stats released by the Countryside Alliance reveal that more than 4,000 incidents of theft, vandalism, assault or burglary were committed in the last year.
Incidents ranged from stolen headstones and purses to alleged rapes in churchyards, according to Mo Metcalf-Fisher, Countryside Alliance spokesman, who urged people to keep a watchful eye on the religious buildings in their community.
Speaking to Premier, he said: “Any attack on a religious building is shocking, and requires a robust response…It’s really sad, because the church obviously wants to keep its doors open. It wants to be that sanctuary for people to go to, and criminals are making that incredibly difficult to carry on with.”
Many churches and places of worship, especially rural ones, are being treated as easy targets by criminals, Mr Metcalf-Fisher added.
He said: “These are supposed to be places where people go to seek solace, but all too often they subjected to heinous crimes, either in or on their property.”
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the worst-hit areas are largely in the south-east of England with Sussex Police recording 367 crimes, Kent 209 cases and the Metropolitan Police 575.
The alliance has been collecting this data for four years, and while there has been a national decrease in this kind of crime during that period, areas such as South Wales, Cleveland, Cumbria, Essex, Hertfordshire and Greater Manchester have seen increases.
The Countryside Alliance is urging the government to ensure funding schemes for churches which have been available in previous years, remain accessible now.