Theft of metal

Church buildings across the UK have had lead stripped from their roofs, guttering and other areas, which in turn leaves the building exposed to the elements and risks further damage from rain, wind and vandalism.

Repeat theft is an additional problem, with thieves deliberately targeting a church building and returning once repairs have been made.

Many churches feel that they are not at risk and this may well be the case however prevention is better than cure and churches should take some preventative measures to minimise the risk of theft occurring.

To help protect your place of worship from metal theft, refer to the following checklist to assess and improve your security measures.

  • Check your premises and identify the location of materials that may be attractive to thieves. If you are unsure speak to your church architect. Examples of items desirable to thieves include lead, copper and stainless-steel roof coverings, copper lightening conductors, lead and copper water pipes, metal statues, iron gates and church bells.
  • Regularly check your roof to make sure that it is intact. Unnoticed theft of lead from the roof can lead to extensive water damage at a later date.
  • Review church security - e.g. lock gates and consider removal of large or over grown bushes which may obscure the view of neighbours.
  • Restrict vehicle access to the place of worship.
  • Restrict access to the roof by removing items that can be climbed upon such as waste bins, water butts and tall trees located near the building. Make sure ladders are kept in a locked building when left unattended and be especially careful when building works are being undertaken and scaffolding in use.
  • Engage with the local community. Make sure neighbours know of any authorised work at the church so that they can report any suspicious behaviour or the presence of unauthorised workmen to you or the police. Click here to download a flyer that you can fill in and distribute to your neighbours that provides them with contact information to report suspicious activity.
  • Make sure that items such as wheelbarrows or wheelie bins are locked away at night as these items may be used to transport materials away from the church.
  • Secure areas of the roof which are easily accessible and consult a crime prevention officer for advice. Consider planting defensive shrubs or bushes. Click here for some planting suggestions. Consider the area where you wish to plant these types of shrubs or bushes i.e. don't plant where children could fall and injure themselves.
  • Consider using anti-climb paint on drain pipes and on the metal itself in situ. The paint should only be applied above two metres from the ground and in each case suitable warning notices should be posted. Whenever it is applied, ensure that the appropriate health and safety regulations are followed.
  • Ensure all outside lighting is in good working order and consider installing security lighting, particularly at roof level. Please see the lighting tab on the deterring intruders page for more information.
  • Consider installing an alarm system. Alarm systems should be installed and maintained by an NSI or SSAIB approved company. Please see the intruder alarms tab on the deterring intruders page for more information.
  • Install Closed Circuit Television (CCTV ) as deterrent. Please note that this can be an expensive option and would require a commitment to monitor. Please see the CCTV tab on the deterring intruders page for more information.

Please consider the levels of threat affecting your own building and adapt the security accordingly as some measures will be more appropriate – and less costly – than others.

Click here to download for a practical prevention guide. Printed copies are also available to Congregational policyholders by providing your contact details to