Protecting Treasures
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Protecting Treasures

With increasing number of churches being open for visitors and community activities particular challenges arise when trying to protect significant items, many of them portable works of art. The guidance note on this page has suggestions for improving the protection of treasures in your church but it should be read in conjunction with the guidance on general security in church buildings also available on the ChurchCare website.

You can download our guidance note on protecting church treasures here.

What to do when a crime takes place

1. Call the police

  • By Phone: 999 (Emergency Number)

You should call 999 when it is an emergency, such as when:a crime is in progress; someone suspected of a crime is nearby; there is danger to life or property or violence is being used or threatened. Do not approach suspects. Gather information and await the arrival of the police.

  • 101 (National Non-Emergency Number)

You should call 101 to report crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response. For example, you should call 101 if: your property has been stolen or damaged and the suspect is no longer at the scene; you need to give the police information about crime or anti-social behaviour in your area; you want to speak to the police about a general enquiry. 101 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • Crimestoppers- 0800 555 111

To remain anonymous, you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers in order to pass on information about crime or criminal activity. You will never have to give a formal statement, talk to police or be a witness in court, and you could receive a reward of up to £1,000 if the information you give us leads to the arrest and charge of at least one person.

2. Call the Church Crime Alert team on 020 7898 1860 or email us

When notified of the theft of a treasure, the Church Crime Alert team will trigger an alert to other professional bodies, including auction houses, museums, and crime prevention networks. Early circulation of information (including photographs) can be an effective tool to prevent the sale and permanent loss of stolen treasures.

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3. Contact your archdeacon and DAC secretary

4. Crime Scene Preservation

The objectives and priorities if your church building has been subjected to a crime will be to identify, preserve and recover evidence and intelligence that may lead to the
apprehension of the offender and recovery of property. If your church building has been the subject of burglary, theft or damage the police will send a Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) to examine the building to identify potential sources of evidence. It is important that the first person to attend the scene of the crime does not interfere
with or damage potential evidence.

  • What will you need to do? Restrict access to the crime scene by introducing a cordon- you can use chairs or a rope, etc. If you find shoe marks, blood and tools or abandoned property inside the building or in grounds nearby, the items should be left in situ for the CSI, however, it may be necessary to remove or cover portable items to protect them from the weather. Record where the item was found, handle it on the edge or an area not normally handled and take it to a safe place where it will not be disturbed until the arrival of CSI. If wet it should be left in a position where water can run off and it can dry naturally.
  • Point of Entry/Point of Exit – avoid touching if at all possible. These areas will be examined bythe CSI for fingerprint and DNA opportunities, damage, tool marks (do not attempt to fit abandoned tools to tool marks), and shoe marks, particularly on any smooth, hard, non-grained surfaces, e.g. gloss painted surfaces, glass.
  • Do not assume fingerprints are not there because you can't see them. Any glass, especially if handled or moved by offender, should be preserved. If out of doors, cover the object or carefully place indoors and allow to dry naturally if wet.

5.Contact your insurer

This should be done at the earliest opportunity. You may need to advise them of your policy number, date and circumstances of loss and crime reference number.

You may need photographs of any stolen items to be sent in with estimates for replacement items.

6. Contact local media

The news desks of local media organisations can be critical in helping to recover stolen items. Local newspapers, radio and TV stations will raise awareness of your stolen
treasure, increasing the likelihood of it being identified and making it harder to sell. It will also increase the awareness of the threat posed to churches by theft and help to
improve public vigilance.