Heritage crime is defined as 'any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations.'
England's heritage assets include:
- World Heritage Sites
- Scheduled monuments
- Listed Buildings
- Protected marine wreck sites
- Conservation Areas
- Registered Parks and Gardens
- Registered Battlefields
- Protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest
- Undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites e.g. local designations.
There is a consent regime and specific offences in law to protect certain designated heritage assets against damage and unlicensed alteration.
However, crime such as theft, removal of objects of historic interest, criminal damage, arson and offences of anti-social behaviour can also lead to harm to heritage assets.
THE SIZE OF THE PROBLEM
English Heritage commissioned research by Newcastle University, Loughborough University and the Council of British Archaeology into the scale of the threat from heritage crime in England.
A summary note 'Heritage Crime: The Size of the Problem' and the full research paper are available to download free of charge from this page.
Key highlights include:
- An estimated 18.7% of all listed buildings were physically affected by crime last year. That is over 70,000 listed buildings.
- For almost 30,000 listed buildings the impact was substantial.
- The biggest single threat is metal theft and the most threatened type of building is a church. About 3 in 8 churches or other religious buildings were damaged by crime last year.
Tackling heritage crime
The Heritage Crime Programme is being spearheaded by English Heritage, the Police (through the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Each of the three organisations has signed a memorandum of understanding on tackling heritage crime (MoU) which delineates responsibilities between the three strategic partners English Heritage, ACPO and CPS.
A growing number of local authorities have also joined this coordinated effort and signed the MoU, including:
- Canterbury City Council
- Cheshire West and Chester Council
- Dover District Council
- Hertfordshire County Council
- Ipswich Borough Council
- London Borough of Lambeth.
- Norfolk County Council
- Northamptonshire County Council and
- Suffolk County Council
Developing a partnership model
A partnership model for the enforcement of heritage crime was agreed after months of discussions with the Police and other organisations in several authorities. These included those involved in wildlife crime prevention, local authorities, professional groups responsible for regulation of historic buildings and sites and community groups with an interest in the area.
The aim was to set a model for future prevention and enforcement that is realistic, efficient, within existing and anticipated resources, sustainable and with the capacity to grow its coverage and effectiveness over time.
The model of Neighbourhood Policing, established to tackle crime and day to day anti social behaviours most affecting local neighbourhoods, provides a useful model for tackling heritage crime.
Reducing heritage crime
Local communities are being urged to understand what heritage assets they have in their area that may be at risk of irreversible damage from crime and to report suspicious behaviour to their neighbourhood policing teams.
Neighbourhood Policing and community involvement is expected to contribute considerably to improved intelligence and data on the ground.
The national agencies will be responsible for encouraging the use and development of the model at a local level.
In addition representatives from more than 100 organisations, ranging from The National Trust, The Church of England, Crime Stoppers and the Ministry of Defence to National Parks, The Woodland Trust and The Historic Houses Association have come together to set up the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage (ARCH).
ARCH is a new voluntary national network that will be used to take forward a range of initiatives and galvanise local action against heritage crime
Find out more about ARCH.
Priorities for reducing heritage crime
The following issues will be given priority:
Preventing and detecting criminal damage caused to the historic environment.
Preventing and detecting unlawful excavation and removal of articles from the historic environment.
Preventing and detecting architectural theft including metal theft from the historic environment.
Prevention and enforcement of unauthorised works to listed buildings.
These categories are deliberately broad and will be refined over time with improved intelligence.
We will be:
Encouraging the use and development of the partnership model particularly in higher risk areas;
Encouraging local authorities to sign up to the Memorandum of Understanding;
Publishing a range of guidance including a Guide for Sentencers, Heritage Impact Statements, Out of Court Disposals, Risk Assessment Guidance for Heritage Assets and Heritage Crime Prevention Measures;
Working closely with colleagues to develop a range of training courses on topics such as investigation techniques, evidence gathering and forensic methods.
How can I get involved?
Some excellent partnerships are already developing across the country to tackle heritage crime and we hope that this will continue with the support of the heritage sector and local communities in the future.
If you are interested in finding out more about the initiative or getting involved, whether as a volunteer or by signing up to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), or if you are a local authority, please contact English Heritage's Customer Services Department.