Fifty-eight crimes have been committed at churches in Cumbria in the 12 months to August, according to new data obtained by the Countryside Alliance.
The figures were obtained by the Countryside Alliance as part of its ongoing call to focus attention on rural churches and increase funding for security at places of worship.
The latest 2020/21 records from Cumbria police reveal 10 thefts of which one relates to metal, as well as 31 cases of criminal damage and 17 cases of violence.
This is an increase of 11 crimes from the previous year. Cumbria is one of six county forces to record an increase.
Nationally, 115 lead thefts were recorded along with 1,336 thefts, 1,688 incidents of vandalism and criminal damage – including arson – and 824 incidents of violence, including sexual assault and assault on an officer. 207 incidents were specifically marked as burglary, as well as other crimes including stalking, malicious communications, hate crime and drug possession.
The worst-hit areas are largely in the South East of England with Sussex Police recording 367 crimes, Kent 209 cases and the Metropolitan Police 575.
Overall there has been a decrease nationally in crimes committed at churches since last year. South Wales, Cleveland, Essex, Hertfordshire and Greater Manchester were the other five forces to return increases this year.
Mo Metcalf- Fisher, a spokesman for the Countryside Alliance 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 are subjected to heinous crimes, either in or on their property.
“We cannot allow these precious places, which are often the centre of villages and towns across the country, to go unguarded and be so exposed.
“Irrespective of faith, ensuring the public keep an ever-watchful eye on churches and reporting suspicious behaviour to police is vital as is easy access protective funding schemes.”
The organisation’s annual report into crimes on churches and religious buildings has revealed a total of 30,169 incidents in four years, with data obtained under Freedom of Information laws going back to 2017.
Combining data from 2017-2021 reveals that some 349 crimes have been recorded at churches in Cumbria.