“The creation of a national Heritage Crime Strategy is overdue and welcome,” says CLA Cymru’s Emily Church. “We look forward to seeing the benefits of results on the ground of Op Heritage Cymru supported by all four Wales police forces. Monitoring crime prevention rather than incidents is always challenging. However we welcome the commitment, range of specific initiatives to tackle heritage crime – and we’ll be placing a finger on the pulse of owners of historical property within the CLA membership.”
“We tend to think of stately homes, castles, churches, and other historical buildings,” Emily explains, “Many of these have some measure of protection from staff or security systems. However a great deal of our heritage exists in the form of ancient earthworks, ruins and isolated structures such as gates, memorials, former military structures or even historical structures associated with agriculture: ancient barns, sheep-folds or even dry stone walls. These can be vulnerable to vandalism, theft, arson or unauthorised digging by treasure-seekers including detectorists.”
“Despite the damage to property, it’s the impact on our historic environment and culture that’s at stake here. It’s irreparable damage or irreplaceable loss which makes this crime egregious.”
A Heritage Crime Liaison Lead already exists in all Welsh police forces, but this new strategy promises more training for officers, increased visibility of police at heritage sites, further development of the Heritage Watch scheme, a specific initiative to focus on illegal metal detecting and improvements in procedures in working with The Crown Prosecution Service.
“The strategy aims to elevate resources to tackle heritage crime to the same levels as wildlife crime,” Emily adds. “We’ve seen great progress in that area in the recent past. But one area of development that we particularly welcome is the use of online resources such as QR codes which enable all of us to play a part in reporting crime and recording evidence.”
“Rural landowners carry a burden of responsibility for many designated sites in Wales. They will welcome and support this development.”