The rate of crime affecting Suffolk churches has dropped notably in the past year, but certain offences like thefts of metals remain a problem.

In total, 75 crimes were recorded at churches in Suffolk, including 33 thefts of which five relate to metal, 37 cases of criminal damage and five cases of violence.

In the year before, 104 crimes were recorded including five cases of lead theft, 47 cases of general thefts, 47 cases of criminal damage and five cases of violence including assault on a constable.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, which submitted an FOI about crimes in churches, said: “We are presented with a grim reality that many churches and places of worship are being treated as easy targets by criminals.

“These are supposed to be places where people go to seek solace, but all too often they subjected to heinous crimes, either in or on their property."

East Anglian Daily Times: A Poppy Appeal collection was recently stolen from St Mary the Virgin Church’s, in East Bergholt.A Poppy Appeal collection was recently stolen from St Mary the Virgin Church’s, in East Bergholt. (Image: Google Maps)

Suffolk rural crime officer, Sgt Brian Calver wants the public to call in any suspicious activity they see.

"Any offence is one too many," Sgt Calver said. "Sadly these people are very organised."

"Most churches do now close their doors, some still want to remain open. Sadly these days that seems to not be that wise."

He advises churches to keep valuable items in a safe, but if they are used infrequently to consider not keeping them in the building at all.

East Anglian Daily Times: Sgt Brian CalverSgt Brian Calver (Image: SARAH CHAMBERS)

He added: "Roof alarms, there are still a few that don't have them. We urge them to get them.

"They may not prevent the theft, but it's a deterrent."

Sgt Calver acknowledges they are costly but said in a worst case they quickly alert you to the fact metal has been stolen.

Even measures such as having anti-climb grease on drainpipes could help.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich said: “We advise our clergy and church officers to be aware of the risk to their building due to criminal damage. We recommend vigilance and if they witness a crime to ring 999.

“All churches are advised to have roof alarms and appropriate insurance as a precaution.

“In addition, Smartwater security marking is used widely throughout the diocese and is highly effective as a means of tracking stolen property, including lead.

“Above all, however, our hearts and prayers go out to church communities who find themselves the target of criminal damage.”