Churches are an important part of any community and as such should be available for members of the public to feel free to visit. Unfortunately there have been occasions when thefts have occurred from churches because they have been open and as a result offer a risk free environment for any person/s wishing to carry out an illegal act once in the building.
To guard against this is very difficult but measures have been put in place, across the UK, to deter acts of criminality and one such measure is the use of forensic property marking. Whilst this has benefits it doesn't stop the determined thief and of course doesn't stop those thieves intent on stealing cash from within a church. An example of this would be the forcing open of offertory boxes whilst churches have been open.
Many churches have a policy of locking the doors to the church at night, whilst some will always remain open, so to ameliorate the risk/reward factor of criminal activity, consideration should be given to removing valuable artefacts. This could include those artefacts that have no monetary value but have significant value to a church. Such items should always be photographed and a detailed written description made, to include details such as assay marks on silver, so that there is a precise record of the item should it be damaged or stolen. Some churches have good, robust and well fitted safes and obviously, if possible, items should be kept in these, but even if a safe is fitted very valuable items may need to be stored off site, perhaps even in a bank vault.
In the past, significant damage has been made to external and internal doors which have been locked, and the cost of the damage to some of these doors has been more than the value of a subsequent theft. Whilst the recommendation is for high quality, secure locks fitted by a recognised locksmith, a very determined attacker could be in a position where they have a considerable amount of time to work away at a lock, unhindered.
It will be a matter, therefore, for each church to make an informed decision as to whether to lock doors or not. Ultimately a criminal's behaviour has to be reported at the earliest opportunity and it is recommended that a burglar alarm system is installed, with at least one, preferably two, clearly visual alarm boxes fitted to the outside of the church. The presence of an alarm box should inform a criminal that the church is protected and that any attempt to force an entry would have consequences.
Specific advice is available from the Police; this could also include the use of CCTV, which if deployed in conjunction with an alarm, can be an effective resource. The use of alternative products to lead is another idea.
It is fully understood that churches have historic listed building considerations in terms of any alterations made to them but the measures outlined should be given careful consideration if the attacks to churches are to be reduced.