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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Cheshire Police launch first heritage crime initiative

 

Cheshire Constabulary has been prominently involved in another groundbreaking initiative aimed at tackling crime. Heritage Watch recently launched to reduce the amount of heritage crime in Cheshire.

Heritage Watch is the first scheme of its kind for policing the past. Working in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council, other Councils, English Heritage and Cheshire Fire and Rescue, the scheme is aimed at preserving heritage sites which are vulnerable to crimes such as arson, vandalism and graffiti. Due to the high value of metal at the moment, churches in particular are susceptible to this crime.

The launch at St. John′s Church in Chester involved representatives from all the partners involved giving their account of their own experiences of heritage crime and invited people from across the county who are interested in crime reduction initiatives and preserving heritage sites to get involved.

The initiative is to work in a similar way to Cheshire Police′s poignant Home Watch scheme. Groups will be set up to monitor local heritage sites, report anything suspicious and generally be vigilant in sharing information. Similarly to Home Watch the scheme heavily relies on community volunteers driving the initiative forward with the help of the local authorities.

Heritage crime is robbing future generations of the opportunity to enjoy historical sites which we take for granted. This type of crime is also costly financially to the public.

Assistant Chief Constable Ruth Purdie said, "We are asking local people to preserve and protect their heritage so that it can be enjoyed by their children and grandchildren.

"Cheshire is particularly rich in buildings and other sites which have historical importance. Even those that are privately owned belong to the local community in terms of environmental value. We want people to appreciate that and make sure they survive into the future."

Describing as nonsense the view that metal theft and similar crimes are virtually victimless, Assistant Chief Constable Purdie added that, "churches are an important part of our national heritage. If someone strips lead from a church roof, bad weather can do untold damage to the entire building in a very short time. The stolen lead may only be worth two or three hundred pounds. The repair costs may be twenty or thirty thousand pounds."
Adding that a few months ago a man was sent to prison for stealing the metal plaque from a war memorial at Willaston, Assistant Chief Constable Purdie said this type of theft causes serious distress to local families.

"Criminals who indulge in this type of theft don′t have any consideration for the effect on other people. They are just interested in a quick profit. Many of these crimes can be prevented. Other agencies are likely to be involved as Heritage Watch becomes recognised and more and more people get involved.

"Local people can make it clear that this type of crime is unacceptable. They will be signing up for a real attempt to protect our heritage for the future."

To get involved in Heritage Watch contact Cheshire Police Communities Unit on 01606 362034 or email communities@cheshire.pnn.police.uk.

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