There has been a recent spike in York Stone theft from churchyards in the north west, and we are aware of cases within Chester Diocese. These incidences are distressing, inconvenient, and may be costly to put right, but there are actions parishes can take to help mitigate against the risk.
- Engage with local neighbours asking them to keep and extra watch over the church premises, reporting any suspicious activity to the police immediately. Take a note of the vehicle registration number of vehicles involved.
- Communicate with your neighbours, send flyers telling them they will be informed if any work is planned at the church. Often, offenders appear to be genuine contractors wearing high viz jackets and using builders vans.
- Review security to the churchyard perimeter. Ensure all gates are locked when the church is not in use to restrict access.
- Consider introducing security lighting to illuminate unlawful visitors where there is a reasonable level of surveillance from neighbouring properties.
- Mark stonework with a forensic security marking solution, such as SmartWater.Vulnerable stones could also be marked with unique overt marking.
- Work with local police and ask your community support police officer to include the church in their daily duties.
- Share your actions with the local press to spread the story to act as a deterrent.
Ecclesiastical Insurance have provided some additional guidance on security which churches may find helpful and these can be found here. You may need faculty or List B permission in place before you introduce some of these security measures, please contact the DAC office for advice.
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If you have particular concerns about the risk of stone theft from your churchyard, you should contact your insurance company. They may be able to offer some additional advice or be able to arrange a site visit to assess the situation at your church. Should an incidence of theft occur, please contact your insurer, file a police crime report and contact the DAC office at Church House