Over 300 acts of vandalism and theft at religious buildings


Jonathan Grieve

A SWASTIKA painted on a mosque door, thefts from donation boxes and theft of pipes causing £1,000 of flood damage are among the acts of vandalism and theft committed at places of worship.
More than 300 incidents of vandalism and theft at religious buildings have been recorded by North Wales Police over the last three years.
Wrexham is the worst hit area in North Wales, with 79 incidents between April, 2011 and April, 2014.
Flintshire saw more than 50 incidents over the same period, as did Denbighshire and Gwynedd.
Among the incidents in the lengthy list was the theft of £100 from a donation box at Wrexham Mosque in November last year after thieves broke in.
In another shocking incident, this time in 2012, a swastika was daubed on a wooden door at the rear of the mosque on Grosvenor Road, Wrexham.
In May last year, offenders removed metal pipes from the wall of an external toilet at Penybryn Welsh Baptist Church, Chapel Street, Wrexham, causing flooding and water damage which cost up to £1,000 to repair.
Offences in Flintshire included a number of thefts from collection boxes and the removal of lead from church roofs.
At St Mary’s Church in Mold, which has been targeted three time in the three-year period, a lightning rod was stolen from the church roof in one raid and a roll of lead was removed in another.
Church warden John Williams said: “The damage that can happen if something is taken away and you don’t immediately see it can be even worse. Water can get in through the roof and it is only when you find bits falling down into the church that you know about it.
“Twice we had lightning rods taken from the roof but the second time the police actually caught people while it was being taken away.”
The Rev Jackie Carter, of St Thomas’ Church in Penycae, said they had not been badly affected by vandalism in recent years, other than a smashed stained glass window.
Mr Carter said: “We’re not part of the Open Church network so people can’t get in during the day. The only incident we had was one of our stained glass windows being broken.
“I think it was probably children who had been throwing stones at the glass.”
A spokesman for the Diocese of St Asaph said: “While statistics showing any incidents of theft or vandalism at our churches are disappointing, it’s worth pointing out we have more than 200 churches and most of them are open to the public every day without incident.
“We encourage our parishes to ensure they take precautions such as locking valuables away and ask them to use preventative measures like SmartWater.
This is an invisible liquid which can be painted on to items to make them traceable and helps to offer protection from metal thefts.”
The figures, which were revealed through a request made under the Freedom of
Information act by Clwyd South AM Ken Skates, also showed more than 60 incidents took place in Conwy, while Angelsey was the least-hit area, with only 17 recorded incidents over the 36 month period.
In total, there were 334 incidents of theft and vandalism recorded at churches and other religious buildings across North Wales.
Mr Skates said: “I don’t know what types of people would commit such crimes.
Some of them would be sickening at the best of times, but when they take place in buildings that mean so much to so many people they’re nothing short of despicable.”
The figure fell from 132 thefts and acts of vandalism in 2012-13 to 83 last year.
Dr Farooq Jisha, a trustee of the Wrexham Islamic Cultural Centre which includes the Wrexham Mosque, said: “I remember the graffiti incident a while back, and it having to be scrubbed it off. 
“It wasn’t nice but a swastika is offensive to everyone. Incidents like that are purely vandalism so we didn’t feel particularly targeted as a community.
“Again, the donation boxes incident was more about people looking for money.
We’ve been lucky in that there hasn’t been anything else really, but obviously it isn’t very pleasant when these things happen.”

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