The Church of England has witnessed a steady increase in metal theft recently. Between 2018 and 2019, reports of thefts were up 25%. The rise is attributed to an increase in international metal prices. Additionally, significant thefts are being co-ordinated by organised criminals working in teams. The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 had great success initially, but further work is necessary to update the law to reflect the organised nature of this crime.
Recent cases of theft have included the 291-year-old bell from Bremilham Church in Wiltshire, recognised as the smallest church in England. In North Yorkshire 60% of the lead roof was stolen from St Peter's Church, Brafferton. This church had only just completed an extensive refurbishment and has now been left with a £80,000-£100,000 repair bill. Thefts are generally moving north and west along the major transport routes and while the additional funding from the Government to assist all religious buildings increase their security is welcome, it does not address the underlying causes of this sort of organised crime.
Church buildings are a community resource and are not just used by worshipers. All Parochial Church Councils are encouraged to take all measure they feel appropriate to deter potential thieves, such as using smart water and installing roof alarms. Many churches have found that by being open more frequently and welcoming people in, rather than only opening for services, this has helped reduce the risk of thefts.