12/21/2011 02:06 pm ET

40 Year-Old Sculpture, Latest Victim Of Metal Theft

The growing trend of stealing public sculptures for their precious metal has hit a Barbara Hepworth sculpture that has made Dulwich park in London its home for 40 years. The staff at the park came across a suspiciously blank pedestal Tuesday morning.

Thieves reportedly drove right up to the sculpture after breaking in through a nearby gate, giving them vehicle access. Prices for copper, lead and bronze has been on the rise lately, making public sculptures crucial targets for the proliferation of the illicit market.

Recently, war memorials and even a hospital in Wales have been hit by the theft of certain metals. The hospital had to cancel 100 operations, including cancer treatments, due to the theft of cables.

The sculpture resided in a secluded glade of the park not monitored by CCTV. Though the thieves were successful in removing the sculpture, reselling or melting it down will prove to be more difficult. Council chiefs are offering a reward of 1,000 pounds for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the burglars.

Peter John, leader of the Southwark council, is understandably mournful for the community's loss. "The theft of this important piece of 20th-century public art from Dulwich park is devastating," he told the Guardian.

"The theft of public art and metal is becoming a sickening epidemic. I would ask the Met police and their metal-theft taskforce to investigate this theft as a matter of urgency and would ask anyone with any information about the whereabouts of the sculpture to contact us or the police."