More than 200 crimes reported in Hertfordshire's churches, figures reveal
PUBLISHED: 11:58 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:58 12 November 2019
There have been 232 reported crimes in Hertfordshire's churches in the last three years - including 19 sexual offences, latest figures have revealed.
An investigation into criminal activity found there were 22 recorded cases of churches being targeted for their lead, as well as 99 other general thefts since 2017.
There have also been 61 counts of criminal damage and 31 cases of violence against a person, according to the Countryside Alliance.
The figures came to light during an investigation by the group, which campaigns on rural issues, following complaints from residents that not enough was being done to raise awareness of lead theft.
Jessie Dunn, of the Countryside Alliance, said: "These figures paint a bleak picture of criminal attacks on our churches and religious buildings in Hertfordshire and across the country as a whole.
"As a society, irrespective of faith or none, we need to be much more vigilant when it comes to watching over churches and places of worship by reporting suspicious activity."
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In Cambridgeshire there were 224 reported crimes - including 22 cases of criminal damage - while Essex had 442 recorded incidents.
Nationwide there were 2,490 cases of violence, 4,162 of criminal damage, and 7,206 thefts - of which 940 related to lead. Across the UK it works out at 19 crimes per day, according to the group.
The Church of England's director of churches and cathedrals, Becky Clark, told Premier Christian Radio: "While these things are undoubtedly very damaging, very harmful when they happen to individual communities, we're still looking at the majority of churches being safe places that are open to their communities.
"We're trying to work with the police on different initiatives to deal with some of the most widely presenting issues."
She added that churches should be safe for everyone - and everything must be done to ensure they are able to stay open.
"This research includes churchyards, which are enormously important green spaces," Ms Clark continued. "In some communities, particularly in urban areas, they might be the only green and open space available to people.
"So it's going to be a natural place for people to come for all sorts of things, mostly good, but occasionally bad."