THOUSANDS of war memorials across England are to be protected by invisible anti-theft paint to combat an increasing number of vandalism attacks and attempts to steal metal from the monuments.
The threat to the country’s estimated 100,000 war memorials has escalated to such an extent that the revolutionary crime-fighting tactic is having to be employed.
The War Memorials Trust confirmed yesterday that it is offering the free use of SmartWater to help prevent vandalism and thieves stealing valuable metal.
The invisible liquid glows green when under ultraviolet light and contains a unique forensic “fingerprint” to help police prosecute offenders whose clothes have been stained by SmartWater.
The move comes after it emerged a war memorial at the Nestlé chocolate factory in York was damaged in a suspected metal theft.
The War Memorials Trust’s director, Frances Moreton, confirmed that on average one monument a week is being damaged.
Ms Moreton added: “The problem has been increasing partly because of the public’s awareness and more people reporting cases, but also because of the rise in metal thefts.
“We deplore any damage to war memorials, especially if it is linked to attempting to steal metal for commercial gain.”
North Yorkshire Police officers have been alerted to the damage to the war memorial at the Nestlé factory on Haxby Road in York.
The names of 412 workers from Rowntree, which Nestlé bought in 1988, who died in the First and Second World Wars are listed on the memorial.
Closed circuit TV images are understood to have caught at least one offender attempting to prise off the memorial panels at about 1.20am a week ago today.
However, a Nestlé spokesman stressed that the panels were made of Corian, which has very little scrap value. It is composed of acrylic polymer and alumina trihydrate and cannot be melted down.
The spokesman added: “It’s shameful that someone would try to remove the plates featuring 412 names of York Rowntree’s employees who lost their lives in the two World Wars.
“The act was also futile as the plates are made of Corian, a material that is expensive to produce but has very little sell-on value.”
The dramatic increase in the price of metals such as copper has been cause by soaring demand around the world, but especially in nations such as China.
The Yorkshire Post revealed in January that cash-strapped local authorities are paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to repair damage caused by metal thieves who have targeted often historic buildings, including schools and cemeteries.
It emerged in September last year that the increasing price of copper had led to one of the region’s electricity companies, CE Electric UK, witnessing a staggering 25-fold increase in the number of trespassing offences in the past five years.
British Transport Police are launching a major publicity campaign to tackle cable theft in South Yorkshire.
Thousands of residents in the Rotherham and Sheffield will receive a leaflet through their doors highlighting the problem.
British Transport Police also confirmed yesterday that five people from Sheffield have been charged with attempted cable theft and going equipped to steal.
They were arrested in possession of a number of tools at a railway freight depot in Rotherham on July 14, last year.