Thou shalt not steal: Church to shine a (UV) light on thieves


The Church of Scotland is swapping holy water for “Smart Water” in a bid to beat metal thieves.

The Kirk, which has seen numerous historical buildings stripped of metal in recent years, has signed a deal with a private company to catch the culprits.

Anything at risk of being stolen can be painted with a special solution – called Smart Water – which is invisible to the naked eye but glows under UV light.

Detectives can then use the information to arrest the thieves and reunite churches with their missing metal.

The Church of Scotland has given its blessing to a new way of catching metal thievesPic: Rich Barrett-Small

Almost 500 churches have signed up to the scheme, provided by SmartWater Technology Ltd which will also supply deterrent signs for churches around the country.

Churches will receive a free starter kit containing the solution and signs.

In February this year a church in Paisley, Renfrewshire had part of its lightning conductor stolen by callous thieves.

Reverend Douglas Hamilton of Oakshaw Trinity Church said: “Lead was stolen from the church a few months back, but this is different.

“I don’t think much of anyone who targets safety features of any kind.”

David Robertson, Secretary to the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland, said: “In the last few years we have seen a steep rise in the number of churches being targeted by metal thieves.

“These incidents have been primarily concentrated in the central belt, with incidents also reported in Dundee and Aberdeen.”

“It is not a victimless crime and the impact and cost of metal theft is not limited to replacing what has been stolen.

“Removing material from a church roof, for example, can lead to further damage to the structure and leave it more vulnerable to problems such as flooding.”

Kevin Roberts, Chief Executive of the Church of Scotland Insurance Company (COSIC) said: “Traditionally we did not offer theft of metal cover but we identified a need for it based on the rise in the number of incidents in recent years.

“So from the turn of the year theft of non-ferrous metals has been included under the Church Scheme Policy.

“The cover is limited up to a maximum of £25,000 and is subject to certain conditions.”

“It is also apparent that as a crime metal theft is becoming more systematic and the perpetrators more organised.

“As a result, an integrated approach is needed to mitigate the risk and SmartWater forms an important element in this. It is a proven deterrent against metal theft.”

In addition to the use of SmartWater a number of other simple measures to combat metal theft should be considered.

Mr Roberts added: “Congregations should be vigilant at all times, particularly of suspicious and unknown vehicles.

“They should ask their neighbours to watch for any suspicious activity; limit vehicle access where possible out-of-hours; ensure scaffolding, ladders and any other items that criminals might use to access their property is secured; and work closely with the local police and crime prevention authorities.”