Smart way to halt town's lead thefts

SECURITY has been stepped up in a seaside town after a spate of expensive thefts of lead roofing from some of its best-known public buildings.

In the last 12 months, crooks have caused thousands of pounds of damage by stealing lead from a number of buildings in Scarborough including The Spa and The Rotunda.

Now, Scarborough Council has teamed up with experts from forensic security firm SmartWater and North Yorkshire Police to protect some of Scarborough's most high-profile buildings.

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The strategy involves painting the SmartWater substance on to the roofs of the buildings, which is almost impossible to rub off or remove.

Each of the council's sites has received its own unique SmartWater code containing a DNA-style forensic signature. So if lead is stolen and recovered by police, officers know where it has come from.

The solution is invisible under normal light, but glows intensely under UV light making it easily identifiable by the police. North Yorkshire officers are equipped with UV scanning devices which are used to search for traces of SmartWater at local scrap metal dealers and other outlets.

Scarborough Council asset management plan officer Alan Dargue said: "Lead thieves cost taxpayers thousands of pounds and we will not tolerate this.

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"These are not victimless crimes, but directly impact on everyone in the Scarborough borough by taking money away that could be diverted towards essential public services.

"If lead is stolen and turns up with scrap dealers, it can easily be traced back and the offender can be forensically linked with the crime scene."

Shirley Collier, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust which operates the Rotunda Museum, said: "The integrity of the roof is vital to ensure the world-class exhibits we have remain in excellent condition.

"We welcome the work that is currently being carried out by our partners in the council and hope it deters criminals from targeting this building in the future."