Joint bid to foil metal thefts

POLICE and church bosses will meet tomorrow to discuss metal thefts.

The meeting will involve representatives from the Durham Diocese of the Church of England and officers from Cleveland and Durham police.

It comes after an 8ft-long copper lightning conductor was ripped from the side of St Oswald’s Church, in Brougham Terrace, Hartlepool, last month.

Scrap thieves stole several cherished items from All Saints Church, in Wheatley Hill, last month including 34 pipes from the historic church organ, a miner’s lamp given in memory of local miner Philip Brown, a silver vase, a candelabra, an incense bearer and holder, a bell, a baptism jug, and two silver chalices.

Metal thefts have cost the diocese, which includes Hartlepool and east Durham, £465,000 since 2007.

The worst year was 2008 when there were 60 insurance claims costing £170,000. There been 90 more claims.

 A church spokesman said: “The purpose of the meeting is not only to get a better idea of the scale of the huge problem, but more importantly, to discuss practical solutions and, as the price of scrap metal continues to soar, find ways of combating the increasing threat of further thefts.

 “Theft of metal is wider than the church, but Church of England congregations are custodians of many of the most significant buildings in the communities they serve.

 Tomorrow’s meeting will also involve Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria police, English Heritage, the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group (EIG), SmartWater Co, the Archdeacons of Auckland, Sunderland and Lindisfarne, and representatives from planning authorities and the building trade.

It is being held from 9.30am to 1pm tomorrow at Burnmoor Church Hall, near Houghton-le-Spring.