By Al Webb
Religion News Service
LONDON (RNS) The Church of England is spearheading a campaign to install high-tech movement sensors on scores of churches in a bid to stop a rash of lead and copper thieves who have targeted the roofs of religious buildings.
The stolen metals are fetching increasingly higher prices on international markets. The insurance firm Ecclesiastical, which provides coverage for 96 percent of Anglican churches in Britain, reported receiving a record 2,600 claims last year.
The new security campaign, called "Hands Off Our Church Roofs," is aimed initially at installing the alarms at some 100 churches in England, Scotland and Wales. The alarms trigger loud voices announcing that a burglary is in process and that security guards are on their way.
The Anglican bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who is heading up the campaign, told journalists that "since the metal vandals have descended in such hordes over recent years, our duty of maintenance has become nearly impossible."
The number of metal thefts is reported to have reached "catastrophic" levels in some dioceses.
In addition to the Church of England, the alarms initiative has won the support of the Association of Chief Police Officers and the British government's Home Office.
The plague of metal thefts, which has worsened during the global economic crisis, has also caused chaos on the nation's rail network and at numerous hospitals, where thousands of feet of copper cabling have been stolen