VPS warns heritage site owners to be well secured


-Metal theft becomes the biggest single threat to UK’s listed buildings-

As metal theft becomes the biggest single threat to listed buildings, VPS, the vacant property specialists, warns owners of heritage sites to ensure vacant premises are well secured in order to prevent costly theft and associated damage.

Historic buildings are especially vulnerable to metal theft, which is estimated to be costing the UK £770 million a year, due to the presence of a number of high value materials, like lead roofing. With new research from English Heritage revealing around 70,000 listed buildings were physically harmed by crime, VPS advises implementing cost-effective preventative measures on vacant heritage sites, such as installing proprietary steel security and monitored alarm systems, to help deter and detect thieves.

The demand for valuable metals, particularly copper and lead, has turned what was once a minor nuisance into a major problem for property owners, as buildings continue to attract metal thieves who can quickly turn stolen goods into lucrative amounts of cash at scrap metal dealers, before export to China and the Far East.

Nick Tubbs, UK Managing Director of VPS, said: “This metal theft crime wave continues to threaten Britain’s heritage sites, as thieves pillage historic buildings. As experts in securing vacant property, we share the concerns of organisations like The Church of England and English Heritage and have been discussing best practice with a number of the UK’s historic building owners. Looking forward, we believe it is in everyone’s interest to find effective ways to protect the country’s heritage for future generations.”

“In the short term, we would advise property owners to take immediate action. Cost-effective tactics, including drain down services and the use of state-of-the-art alarming technology, as well as inspections services, can help to deter vandals and thieves. These easily implemented measures can also help avoid costly damage caused by the sudden removal of metals,” added Tubbs.

To help combat metal theft and other threats to vacant property, there is a range of solutions that can be employed for security and surveillance to deter unwelcome visitors:

•Drain down services are a cost effective preventative measure, which include the drain down of all water systems, as well as the switching off of other utilities such as gas and electric services. This prevents catastrophic damage to vacant properties if metal pipes are stolen and can help ensure property owners meet the relevant insurance criteria. It should be the minimum protection that property owners and managers take to protect vacant property from the damage caused by metal theft.

•Proprietary steel screens and doors are much more effective for securing the vulnerable points of ingress than plywood boarding. In addition they are perforated so as to allow air to circulate within the property.

•Erecting hoardings, temporary fencing, bollards and anti-climb paint will help protect unauthorised access via the perimeter of a property.

•Increasing costs of manned guarding and a growth in instances of theft has seen a rise in the development of alternative solutions and an increase in electronic security systems, which can be substantially lower than the cost of manned security. Electronic security, such as the VPS SmartAlarm Gold, can be swiftly deployed to provide instant visual monitoring and protection. Sensors provide immediate detection and report on a range of incidents including intruders, flooding and fire. Verifeye Visual camera sensors, on activation, take full colour video clips which are rapidly relayed to VPS’ 24/7 national monitoring station. Entirely free-standing, the alarms use wireless GSM mobile phone technology and a long life battery, so mains power or a phone line are not required. They deter using loudspeaker voice messages and a 120 decibel siren.

•For properties requiring additional protection VPS provide a SmartGuard service which combines an onsite guard with a SmartAlarm. This is recommended for high profile sites where an onsite presence is imperative. The guard and alarm will work together so limiting the number of guards required on site.


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