CHURCHES throughout Dorset are increasingly being targeted by criminals

There were 31 attacks on people and more that 200 crimes in total in places of worship over the past three years.

Figures from Dorset Police reveal that churches in and around the county are not only being targeted for their lead, of which there were 10 recorded cases, but that there were also over 97 ‘general’ thefts in the past 3 years.

Churches in Dorset have been subject to 91 counts of criminal damage since 2017. There are also 31 cases of violence against a person.

Across the UK, 19, 493 crimes have been committed at churches and religious buildings, after 40 of 45 UK police forces responded to the FOI request from the Countryside Alliance.

The Countryside Alliance, which campaigns on rural issues, has compiled the data from across the country, into a report for its membership.

This includes 2,490 cases of violence, 4162 of criminal damage and 7,206 of thefts of which, 940 relate to lead theft. It works out at a rate of 19 crimes a day, nationwide.

Mo Metcalf- Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said: “These figures paint a bleak picture of criminal attacks on our churches and religious buildings in Dorset and across the country as a whole.

"As a society, irrespective of faith or none, we need to be much more vigilant when it comes to watching over churches and places of worship by reporting suspicious activity.

"It serves as a reminder of the importance of funding and pushing for visible policing, particularly in rural areas where churches are more remote.”

The Church of England's director of churches and cathedrals, Becky Clark said: "While these things are undoubtedly very damaging, very harmful when they happen to individual communities, we're still looking at the majority of churches being safe places that are open to their communities."

"We're trying to work with the police on different initiatives to deal with some of the most widely presenting issues.

"However, fundamentally, churches are places where people should be able to come in all states, they should be able to come and feel safe. We want to make sure that those churches feel that they can stay open."

"This research includes churchyards, which are enormously important green spaces. In some communities, particularly in urban areas, they might be the only green and open space available to people. So it's going to be a natural place for people to come to for all sorts of things, mostly good, but occasionally bad."