MORE than 60 crimes were committed at churches in Dorset last year, new figures reveal.

Dorset Police has announced a total of 66 crimes have been recorded at churches in the county in the year ending August 2020. This total includes four cases of lead theft, 25 cases of general theft, 33 cases of criminal damage and four cases of violence, referring to violence against a person that results in injury or non-injury.

The new findings have been published in a report by Countryside Alliance, an organisation which campaigns on rural issues. The report found that there were 5,831 incidents of theft, vandalism, assault and burglary on or at churches and religious buildings across the UK in the last 12 months - roughly 16 crimes a day.

The latest findings follows a report published by Country Alliance last year which detailed that there were more than 20,000 crimes committed in the UK at churches or religious buildings between 2017 and 2019.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance said: "These new figures paint a bleak picture of crime in the UK. I think the significant thing about the new report is time there was a period of national lockdown and crime has been at a similar level to the report we conducted last time.

"I think some criminally minded people have seen the pandemic as an opportunity to exploit the fact that people are stuck at home and they are less likely to get caught and it worries me for the future of crime against churches and religious buildings."

New figures show that there have been 278 lead and metal thefts, 2,152 general thefts, 1,750 cases of vandalism, arson or criminal damage, 946 cases of assault, 534 cases of burglary and 171 other crimes including stalking, malicious communications and drug possession across the UK in the last year.

Mr Metcalf-Fisher said: "To reduce the amount of crime we have called for an increased rural policing presence as we believe churches in rural areas, including Dorset, are more at risk than those in cities.

"Churches also need to take steps to make themselves more secure by installing security lights and alarms."