Time to lock up your churches?

editorial image

A SPATE of church break-ins in Wyre and north Lancashire have shocked worshippers and local residents.

Police are considering introducing a new Church Watch scheme after two churches, a Quaker Meeting House and a presbytery in Wyre were broken into.

They carried out a check on all 26 local churches after alarms were raised at the presbytery at St Mary and St James RC Church, in Scorton, and at the Knott End/Preesall Church of St Oswald.

Another break-in was discovered at The Quaker Friends Meeting House on Calder House Lane, Garstang, on Sunday morning.

The break-ins follow a forced entry to the vestry at St Hilda’s church at Bilsborrow on Tuesday February 5 between 8am and 3pm. Two churches in Brookhouse, one in Caton and one in Hornby, near Lancaster, were also targeted recently.

PC Simon James, of Garstang police, said: “We’re trying to link in with all the churches and offer them reassurance and are stepping up patrols in rural areas. We’re still looking at the feasibility of setting up a Church Watch scheme here.”

He urged anyone who notices suspicious activity around church buildings to call the constabulary on 101 or speak to the Garstang Neighbourhood Policing Team. A 56-year-old man has been arrested on supicion of burglaries and is currently on police bail.

Mostly the intruder or intruders got away empty handed - though an unknown quantity of money and silver napkin rings were taken from the Scorton presbytery where the break-in was discovered on Saturday. It is thought St Oswald’s was broken into between 10am and 3pm on Friday February 8.

Team Rector Rev Jeff Finch from St Hilda’s said a small quantity of foreign coins in a drawer in the vestry had been ignored. A door had been forced to get into the vestry.

He added: “We always keep the church open for private prayer. No money was taken - we don’t keep it on the premises any longer than absolutely necessary. It was the usual mindless break-in damage and it’s since been rectified.”

He said the Fellside group of churches, which covers a 60 square mile area including churches at Bislborrow, Barton, Goosnargh, Whitechael and Bleasdale, remains vigilant about security. He praised a move to extend Churchwatch in the north Preston and city centre areas, where some 30 churches have already signed up. Such schemes, like Neighbourhood Watch, helped promote interaction to protect those things “valued by the community”.

Lancaster RC Diocesan Communications Officer Father Robert Billing said: “The best form of security is a well used church.”