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Metal thefts cause alarm

Heard the booming voice of God at church recently? It may just have been a warning to intruders to keep away. Movement sensors are to be hidden in churches across Britain, triggering a surprise warning that burglars have been detected and that security guards are on their way.

The initiative is backed by the Church of England, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office, and is the result of 'catastrophic' metal thefts, 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 the 100 churches judged to be most at risk. It is hoped - perhaps not steadfastly - that other churches will be able to raise the money themselves.

The cost of metal has soared during the global economic crisis. Churches have been viewed as a soft option by thieves, it is claimed, since they are often poorly guarded and situated in all of the most crime-ridden areas of the country. Last year 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.

A security campaign called 'Hands off Our Church Roofs' is being backed by - insert your own pun here - an actress and a bishop: Liz Hurley and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres.

The bishop said said: 'Since the metal vandals have descended in such hordes over recent years our duty of maintenance has become nearly impossible.

'New Government legislation will undoubtedly help, but we all need to remain vigilant and try to get a step ahead of these well-organised raiders.'

Miss Hurley said: 'Beautiful old churches are at the heart of so many of our communities and I find it truly shocking that anyone would steal lead from a church roof. I heartily endorse the campaign to have alarms fitted.'