Campaign to protect historical St Albans sites from crime

The broken window dating from 1897 as seen from outside the abbey

The broken window dating from 1897 as seen from outside the abbey - Credit: Archant

A new scheme to protect historical sites, monuments and artefacts from crime in St Albans and across the county has been launched by Herts Police.

With the support of English Heritage and the county council, Heritage Watch was unveiled on Tuesday.

It has been introduced at key heritage sites and museums across the county by the local Chief Inspectors. In St Albans, Chief Inspector Ken Townsend teamed up with St Albans Abbey – the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain – to introduce the scheme to the area.

Heritage crime targets famous natural landmarks, cathedrals and ancient battlefields as well as cultural property such as pieces of art, jade and rhino horn. Criminal activity can damage assets forever and the categories include architectural theft, anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, unauthorised excavation and metal detecting, damage caused by vehicles, metal theft or theft of historical and cultural property.

Recently St Albans Abbey was the target of vandalism when an historic stained glass window was smashed.

Targeting heritage sites and artefacts has become more prevalent in recent years with criminals looking for a quick cash return from metal theft and the illegal trade of historical and cultural assets.

The scheme has been set up to improve communication between people who live near heritage sites, those who have an interest in the county’s heritage and the police.

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At the launch, Chief Constable, Andy Bliss, said: “Tackling heritage and cultural property crime is something I take an active interest in, not only because I am the national policing lead, but also because I feel it is important to protect Hertfordshire’s historical and cultural assets for future generations.

“People who live close to historical sites and those who have a real interest in our local history tend to frequent the county’s areas of historical interest more often and are therefore likely to notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary.

“Through joining Heritage Watch, we hope the public will become the ‘eyes and ears’ of these precious sites and artefacts and report anything suspicious to us.

St Albans Cathedral Sub Dean Richard Watson added: “We are very happy to support the police in the introduction of Heritage Watch. It can only be a good thing if we are all more aware about the importance of protecting our priceless heritage and reporting anything that seems untoward around them to the police.”