Leicestershire Police’s Heritage Crime Team work hard to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour affecting the county’s historic sites and buildings.
The team of specially trained police volunteers regularly monitor the conditions of heritage sites across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and work to provide and implement detailed crime prevention plans tailored to the needs of each one. Heritage sites can include churches, listed buildings, monuments, conservation areas, registered parks, gardens, battlefields and more.
Chief Inspector Sian Walls, the force’s lead for Rural Crime, said: “Sadly our churches and other heritage sites can fall victim to criminal damage, theft, arson or anti-social behaviour. These crimes often have a devastating impact on our communities and can cause irreversible damage, meaning that a piece of our history could be lost forever.
“Our Heritage Crime Team work closely with Historic England to protect our county’s heritage assets and establish what works best to deter and detect the crime. The team members come from a diverse range of backgrounds and bring a whole host of skills with them. They are a brilliant asset to the force and together we can protect the heritage of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.”
The team was initially set up three years ago in partnership with Leicestershire Police and Historic England as a pilot scheme. Since then a growing number of organisations, including many police services across England and Wales, have also joined this coordinated effort to protect our shared heritage or to protect our historic environment.
Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England, said:
“The pilot carried out by Leicestershire Police has been a major catalyst for how we have developed the Heritage Watch scheme across the rest of the country.
“By galvanizing people with a passion for the past, we have been able to provide better protection to our heritage assets and their settings, and also increased public confidence in reporting and recording heritage crime and anti-social behaviour to their local police service."
Louise Brennan, Regional Director, Historic England, Midlands added:
“Historic England are delighted in the way that Heritage Watch has developed in Leicestershire and Rutland, and while there is still more work to be done, there is clearly an interest in protecting our heritage buildings and sites.”
Recent national developments include the integration of heritage crime into business crime and working with specialists, such as volunteer police cadets, metal detectorists, divers, and training them in how to identify and report suspicious behaviour and activity.
Leicestershire Police’s Heritage Crime Team hosted a church security conference for Church Wardens earlier this year with 130 delegates in attendance. The team have also been working with Loughborough University to deliver seminars to students on heritage crime.
Heritage Crime volunteer Jenny Kent has a background in archaeology and police research. She works for a maritime archaeology company and leads on heritage crime for them, both on land and underwater.
She says: “I think the Heritage Crime Team is a fantastic asset to communities. We are available to offer advice in a pro-active manner and in relation to all types of heritage, from landowners to churches and more.”
If you would like the Heritage Crime team to visit a historical building or site near you, contact the team at [email protected]
Jenny Kent from Leicestershire Police's Heritage Crime Team