Faith Watch: Yorkshire church groups in crime battle

The message that working together can help church groups fight crime is spreading across West Yorkshire.

A Faith Watch group, involving religious churches and bodies, is to be established in North West Leeds to combat the thefts and criminal damage which regularly desecrate local places of worship.

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In West Yorkshire in the past year, there has been 462 thefts of metal, stone, lead or copper from faith buildings.

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Representatives from a number of denominations met with crime fighting agencies and support groups at Headingley Carnegie Stadium to discuss the group, which will be similar to one already operating in south Leeds.

At the meeting, representatives discussed the advantages of Faith Watch groups, where members share information about crime trends affecting religious buildings and ways of combating those issues.

By forming a Faith Watch scheme, co-ordinators can implement basic crime prevention initiatives and communicate regularly with the police.

Insp Richard Cawkwell of North West Leeds Police, said: "Metal and lead theft is becoming an increasing problem in West Yorkshire and a large proportion of these are from religious buildings.

"We urge members of the faith communities to join their local Faith Watch scheme and work together and share information to ensure their local church or mosque is not an easy target for thieves."

Non-religious groups at the meeting included the makers of the

invisible security marking dye Smartwater and Community Action and Support Against Crime (CASAC).

As a result of information circulated via the South Leeds Faith Watch groups, steps are being taken to improve the security of several buildings.

Insp Damien Miller of City and Holbeck police said: "Faith Watch is an excellent way for our local places of worship to protect themselves from criminals who have no regard for those who wish to practice their religion."

Other Faith Watch schemes are set to be launched over the next few months. For more details, call project officer Chloe Dummer on 01924 292904.

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