CRIMES against churches are particularly nasty and upsetting, not only for the congregations for whom they are such special places, but for the communities at whose hearts they stand.
Even for those who do not attend church on a regular basis, they are central to a community’s sense of identity and cohesion, symbols of togetherness, concern for others and neighbourliness.
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They are hubs for events, bringing people together, and a sanctuary for those needing moments of quiet reflection. Sadly, being able to go into church in search of peace at any time of the day is becoming harder, since the doors of so many are having to be kept locked against thieves.
The extent to which criminals are targeting Yorkshire’s churches is shocking. In the past two years, more than 2,500 crimes have been committed, including offences of violence, theft and the stripping of lead from roofs.
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The police are doing all they can to prevent crime and catch those responsible, but it is clear that there needs to be action on a much broader front if our churches are to be safeguarded.
The Bishop of Ripon, the Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, is surely correct to call for strategic partnerships to beat the criminals.
Communities need to step up their own vigilance, especially of churches in remote locations, and not hesitate to report anything suspicious.
And there has to be a crackdown on unscrupulous scrap dealers buying stolen lead. Choking off the means of profiting from its theft will go some way towards acting as a deterrent.
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The Bishop will find that her call to combat crime receives widespread support, as it deserves to. Yorkshire people cherish churches for their beauty, heritage and the good they do. They will be wholehearted in their efforts to help keep them safe.