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Vandals strike at churches across Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 10:58 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:00 06 July 2010

VANDALS, thieves and arsonists committed more than 200 crimes at Suffolk churches and places of worship in a year, according to police figures.

Yobs were responsible for 99 offences of criminal damage among the 220 incidents between December 1, 2008, and November 30, 2009.

VANDALS, thieves and arsonists committed more than 200 crimes at Suffolk churches and places of worship in a year, according to police figures.

Yobs were responsible for 99 offences of criminal damage among the 220 incidents between December 1, 2008, and November 30, 2009.

Although the majority of crimes happened inside churches, others included break-ins to vehicles while on church property.

Vestry doors were vandalised along with valuable stained glass church windows of historical and sentimental significance, and a charity box.

During other incidents brickwork, plasterwork and antique brickwork coping stones were also damaged.

There were also 97 thefts and burglaries during the same year, along with three arsons. Harassment and violence accounted for 17 more incidents and there was even a report of a sex offence in one case.

Silver plates, goblets, collection box money, a large metal free-standing safe, a wall safe, church candles, and a crystal bead rosary with a red host picture were among the items taken by thieves.

Twenty-five of the crimes took place at Ipswich churches, graveyards or car parks. Eight of the crimes were in Bury St Edmunds, with five in Lowestoft and four in Felixstowe. The others were scattered around the county.

Andrew Dotchin, rector of the parish of Whitton with Thurleston and Akenham, said it was desperately sad when churches are targeted by thieves and vandals.

He said: “It's extremely heartbreaking. When it happens the consequences are that stuff has to be replaced and it put a drain on the congregation. All churches are maintained by the people who worship there.

“You are also dealing with heritage materials that can not be replaced from B&Q. In our church some of the windows are more valuable than the walls. People don't realise if they break a church door it is more valuable than the money in a collection box.

“For very little reward they are causing a great deal of damage and destroying community spirit and goodwill.

“The biggest challenge when people commit criminal acts on a church is it makes it difficult for people to use the church. It makes it difficult to keep the church open for worship and all round it kind of diminishes hope.

“All churches are for the communities where they are situated and the last thing they want is to lock doors, put up big fences, and put up lighting and CCTV.”

Ruth Lincoln, one of two church wardens at St Peter's Church Copdock with Washbrook, which was targeted last month by thieves said she was appalled anyone could commit a crime at a church.

She said: “What sort of people are going to destroy something that no one else has touched or damaged in hundreds of years. It's terrible. They are either really high on drugs or there's no word to describe someone like that.”

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