Revealed: the true cost of crime on our heritage

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The first comprehensive survey on the effect of crime on England’s historic buildings and sites, commissioned by English Heritage, has been released.

Findings show a worrying rate of damage, with a national heritage crime rate of 17.9 per cent.

Metal theft from heritage assets in the South is at 3.2 per cent, compared to 7.8 per cent in the North.

In high deprivation areas 26.2 per cent of heritage assets suffered damage through crime last year, compared with 13.3 per cent in low deprivation areas.

Dr Andy Brown of English Heritage said: “The figures are alarming for the South, particularly for our churches. Whilst heritage is not necessarily being targeted over other places, save perhaps for their valuable materials and artefacts, they are suffering a substantial rate of attrition from crime nonetheless.

“Damage done to a listed building or an archaeological site can often not be put right and centuries of history will be lost forever. These places have an obviously high value to society. Their particular vulnerability warrants every effort to ensure they are still around for future generations to enjoy just as much as we enjoy them now.”

English Heritage has been running a heritage crime prevention programme for two years with the aim of reducing the amount of damage done by crime to the nation’s heritage assets.

Under the strategic guidance of English Heritage, the Police (through the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), a nationwide network is developing among enforcement bodies, local authorities, non-governmental organisations, professional groups and amenity societies to systematically tackle and reduce offences such as architectural theft, including metal theft, criminal damage, illegal metal detecting, graffiti, vehicle nuisance and arson.

Representatives from more than 100 organisations are now members of the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH), a voluntary national network that is being used to take forward the initiatives and galvanise local action.

Mark Harrison, National Policing Advisor at English Heritage seconded from Kent Police, said: “Many communities realise that heritage crime does not only damage buildings but also the quality of life in their area. We are very encouraged by the response and hope that more community networks will be established with the skills, understanding and information to make a real difference.”