Metal thefts from schools and churches targeted

Father George Suszko, whose church was the victim of metal theft. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Father George Suszko, whose church was the victim of metal theft. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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IT’S a modern-day crime phenomenon, but now a plan is in place to hit back at thieves who strip historic buildings of lead and copper wire.

Edinburgh City Council is leading a fight against the crooks which has seen motion detectors linked to CCTV cameras fitted to a large number of buildings and special solution daubed on swathes of rooftop lead which can help police track and trace the thieves.

According to city chiefs, the steps are already paying off, with a notable reduction in the number of lead and copper thefts from a wide variety of buildings.

Education leader Councillor Paul Godzik, who has seen a large number of schools targeted, said the number of thefts has fallen by more than half over the last year.

Cllr Godzik said: “With lead theft it is not simply the value of the lead, or the cost to replace it, that is the issue, but in certain circumstances damage to buildings can increase the cost of repair and lead to school or building closures for repairs to take place.”

Council chiefs are working alongside Lothian and Borders Police in a bid to drive down the rate of the crime, which has dropped from 665 reported metal thefts across the city in 2011 to 282 last year.

Meanwhile, the number of reported metal thefts from council buildings, including schools, fell from 44 in 2011 to ten last year.

The city council is currently the only local authority on a working group set up by the Scottish Business Crime Centre to “share best practice” on a response which will be rolled out across Scotland.

Many council buildings are now marked with a special DNA solution which indicates that the lead is from a city council property. The coding identifies the exact building from which the material has been taken.

Motion detection alarms have also been linked with CCTV cameras.

Last year, the roof alarm at the Royal High Primary School was activated and CCTV showed two men. Police were called and one of the men was arrested.

Earlier this week, it was reported that work to install overhead lines for Edinburgh’s trams was being delayed to prevent thieves from stealing the metal.

Father hit the roof over church attacks

ALMOST £4000 worth of copper was stolen from a church roof – just a week after the parish house was robbed while the priest conducted a service.

Thieves made off with 12 copper panels from the roof of St John the Baptist’s Roman Catholic Church in March 2011, and eight from the neighbouring St Ninian’s Church in Corstorphine.

St John the Baptist’s Church had been targeted by thieves just eight days earlier while Father George Suszko gave an evening service.

Fr Suszko said: “I was so disappointed and frustrated that these things are happening.”