Special movement sensors are to be hidden in spires and finials triggering a booming voice to take intruders by surprise warning that they have been detected and that security guards are on their way.
The initiative, backed by the Church of England, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office, comes after the rate of metal thefts reached “catastrophic” proportions in some dioceses with an average of seven churches targeted every day.
An insurance company has donated £500,000 to pay for hi-tech alarms to be fitted in 100 churches in England, Scotland and Wales judged to be most at risk.
But organisers hope that hundreds of other parishes will raise funds themselves to fit the devices – adapting the traditional church roof appeal model to cope with the metal theft crisis.
The soaring cost of metal during the global economic crisis has helped fuel a surge in metal thefts, triggering chaos on the rail network when copper signalling cables are taken.
Last year an irreplaceable Barbara Hepworth sculpture was stolen from Dulwich Park in south London.
But churches in particular have been viewed as a soft option by thieves, often poorly guarded and situated in all of the most crime-ridden areas of the country.
Last year alone the insurance firm Ecclesiastical – which provides cover for 96 per cent of Anglican churches – received 2,600 claims for metal thefts, the highest ever in a single year.
The Church of England, which alone is responsible for almost half of all grade one listed buildings in Britain, has admitted the task of maintaining its buildings is becoming impossible.
Metal theft is now being viewed and treated as a serious threat to Britain’s national heritage...
Maybe people wouldn't be stealing metal if they could get a job and enough money to eat and live.