REPORTED thefts of valuable Yorkshire stone have rocketed by more than a third in parts of West Yorkshire in one year, new figures have revealed.
Police are warning residents to be vigilant after more crimes in Bradford (up 34 per cent), Kirklees (up 37 per cent) and Wakefield (up 33 per cent)
Only Leeds and Calderdale saw stone thefts fall.
In the 12 months up to February there were 736 offences reported compared with 623 the previous 12 months - a rise of 18 per cent.
Chris Joyce, the Force crime prevention officer, said: “Yorkshire stone can be targeted due to its value and I’d like to urge people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity, noting descriptions of individuals and vehicles that may be involved in this type of crime.
“Not all offences will take place during the hours of darkness, so please keep a look out for anything that may appear suspicious during the day too.
“It’s important that we protect our heritage in West Yorkshire and do all that we can to disrupt the activity of offenders.”
The thefts have affected householders whose paths have been ripped and historic buildings such as churches.
Huddersfield’s Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney met Home Secretary Theresa May last week to discuss the problem.
He said: “The theft of Yorkshire stone in my part of West Yorkshire is a big local issue. I was appalled at the theft of Yorkshire stone flags from the pathway to Christ Church in Linthwaite, leaving the church with a repair bill of more than £2,000.
“West Yorkshire Police and Kirklees Council have an initiative to get these thefts reported and investigated.”
He said stones were being marked with SmartWater, a traceable liquid.
“I met the Home Secretary last week to brief her on the surge in stone thefts in Colne Valley and asked for the Home Office to look at measures to tackle this.”
Thefts of copper and lead had been curbed by making sales of scrap a cashless transaction, he added.