Heritage Crime has hit the headlines following a report highlighting how historical sites are suffering. Historic England published details of research carried out in collaboration with members of the Alliance to Reduce Crime Against Heritage (ARCH) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council. Historic England funded this research, which was carried out by the national intelligence unit for serious organised acquisitive crime (Opal).

Heritage crime findings:

The groups’ findings highlight a number of risks. These include unlawful activity such as arson and nighthawking. Nighthawking refers to the theft of archaeological artefacts from protected sites. As the names suggest it’s something which happens under the cover of darkness, and often involves the use of metal detectors. It’s a surprisingly common crime. Only last week, historic artefacts were stolen from English Heritage property in Cheshire.

Other crimes highlighted in the report include theft of everything from historic stone to cultural artefacts. Some improvements have been seen over recent years, such as the reduction in theft of metal from historic buildings. This peaked during lockdown but has since thankfully begun to fall. The partnership has highlighted the need for more understanding and detailed recording of heritage crimes. You can read the full press release and more details on the report by Historic England.

Something Unexpected

One of the most striking things, when reading this report, is just how many different groups are collaborating to protect cultural and historical property. Members of ARCH includes councils, archaeological societies and conservations groups. The National Rural Crime Network is one of Historic England’s partners, and Heritage Watch provides a sector specific scheme to report and share information of crime or damage at heritage sites.

“… progress has been made possible by working with members of ARCH and the thousands of people, organisations and charities who own and care for our historic buildings and sites. The findings of this assessment will help us to develop the new tactics and technologies required to be one step ahead of those intent on stealing from our past.”

Historic England’s head of Heritage Crime Mark Harrison

With so many organisations collaborating, the sector is on a sure footing to tackle crime. Should the recommendations of the report be adopted, more detail can be gathered with more collaboration across police forces and other organisations. If actions advised in the heritage crime prevention document are implemented, buildings and assets can be better protected from the risk of crime. A combination of steps to mitigate the threat of crime and ensure robust reporting of crime could help to protect heritage property for future generations.

Historic England rightfully advise caution when implementing some methods of crime prevention. It’s important to strike a balance between protecting the property and protecting the historical and heritage aspect of the site. Listed buildings consent – or similar – may be required before installing some of the crime prevention methods recommended. Experienced and considerate design is required when installing security systems at historic sites.

Keybury Fire & Security

Keybury Fire and Security install and maintain NSI Gold and BAFE approved Fire Alarms, CCTV, Access Control and Intruder Alarms. We’re not quite “heritage” status, but we have been protecting property across Yorkshire and Lancashire since 1982. Our team are highly skilled and we don’t shy away from a challenge. Properties we protect include stately homes and heritage venues, churches and ancient castles, historic barns and listed buildings. We offer free initial site survey to determine the best way to secure each premises. Our experienced designers are experts and work closely with police and insurers as well as councils, custodians of the building, community organisations and heritage organisations.

Contact us to discuss your project: 0800 458 7486