Protection for war memorials from metal thieves

SmartWater scheme to protect war memorials
SmartWater scheme to protect war memorials

ACTION has been taken to protect plaques on Hucknall’s precious war memorial from being targeted by metal thieves looking to cash in.

The value of scrap metal has shot up in recent years and this has sparked a huge rise in the number of theft offences.

Metal roadside grates have been taken, lead from churches stolen and even drainpipes from Newstead Abbey pilfered.

Nothing is safe.

That’s why Ashfield District Council, the War Memorials Trust and Ashfield Memorials Group have joined forces to ensure that all metal plaques on war memorials within the district are marked with SmartWater and registered on a database.

The SmartWater is invisible to the eye but appears when scanned using an ultraviolet light. It is also almost impossible to remove once marked and can even withstand being burnt.

Plaques on the cenotaph to remember Hucknall’s war dead in the town’s Titchfield Park have been treated.

If a plaque now gets stolen and taken to a scrapyard anywhere in the country, police can locate exactly which one it is and where it has been stolen from.

Also, a thief who tries to remove Smartwater risks inadvertently spreading forensic evidence on to their clothes and any tools. This can be used by police to link a suspect directly to the crime scene.

Local groups, parish and town councils across Nottinghamshire are being reminded of the scheme to use this forensic technology to help reduce the risk of thieves and vandals stealing or damaging metal from war memorials.

Notts County Council has worked with local groups since 2006 to fund projects and create 23 war memorials in the county through its Local Improvement Scheme at a cost of £364,500.

It is estimated that on average one war memorial a week across the UK is being targeted by thieves intent on stealing bronze, copper or other metals to sell on for scrap despite the metal having relatively little monetary value.

Ashfield councillor Warren Nuttall (Lab) said: “We are very pleased to be involved in this scheme and are doing all we can to help try to reduce this sort of crime.

“The SmartWater technology is very impressive and we hope it will help to protect our war memorial plaques.”

Coun Richard Butler (Con), the county council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “War memorials are an important focal point in our communities and are a crucial reminder of the sacrifice of those who lost their lives for their country. It is shameful if any are stolen.”