English Heritage Calls on Communities to Help Tackle Heritage Crime

Crimes and anti-social behaviour that damage England’s historic environment will for the first time be tackled in a much more coordinated way through a new initiative launched by English Heritage from February 2011.

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 40 organisations, ranging from The National Trust, The Church of England, Crime Stoppers and Ministry of Defence to National Parks, The Woodland Trust and The Historic Houses Association have formed the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH). ARCH is a voluntary national network that will be used to take forward the initiatives and galvanise local action.

Tackling Heritage Crime

The true extent of heritage crime is difficult to ascertain due to the way in which it is recorded and the fact it tends to be under-reported by victims. This initiative seeks to address the reluctance to report such crimes by increasing public awareness and placing the emphasis on a coordinated effort. The 2009 English Heritage study of illegal metal detecting suggested that the problem is growing and reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg. Metal theft from churches is also a serious issue, with the number of insurance claims in 2010 being twenty times as many as that in 2005.

In 2010 the first national assessment was conducted looking at existing information and disparate data that various organisations were able to supply, including: English Heritage’s Heritage At Risk Register; live known cases; geographical information on the spread and concentration of heritage assets; the 2009 study on illegal metal detecting; and, church metal theft data. This identified that arson, architectural theft (including metal theft), removal of artefacts from protected sites and vehicle nuisance pose the greatest threat. Lincolnshire and the Peak District National Park, East of England, the South East, the and the South West and the Northumberland national parks have been identified as pilot areas because of the presence of many vulnerable historic sites and the enthusiasm of local partners.

Types of Crime

In the next 12 months or so, the heritage crime initiative will focus on the prevention and detection of four broad types of crime:

Damage caused to the historic environment – This refers to physical damage (as a result of fire, graffiti, vandalism and damage caused by cars, motorcycles and other means).

Unlawful excavation and removal of articles from the historic environment – This refers to theft from scheduled monuments or protected wrecks and includes illegal metal detecting.

Architectural theft – This refers to theft of items from historic buildings and structures like stone walls, vintage street signs and pavements. In recent years a new trend has emerged in the theft of lead and metal from roofs and guttering.

Unlawful alteration and demolition of listed buildings

For more information on the ARCH project and to read the full press release, please visit the English Heritage website