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Heritage Crime Costs £300m A Year

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Aug 1, 2010
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The British Security Industry Association has launched a guide on how best to protect vacant heritage properties, following the news from the Association of Chief Police Officers last year that heritage crime costs a total of £300m a year, which means that this is the second most valuable crime market in the country, with just drug dealing proving to be more profitable for those involved. These figures are made up of damage caused to the property by squatting and because of illegal raves and parties, because of the theft of materials, and because of the theft of items that are considered historically important.

The guide itself is an extensive one that not only includes information on how best to protect heritage buildings, but also some other factors for heritage building owners and managers to consider – the guide starts with a notice that any work carried out on heritage properties may need local authority consent before the work can be carried out.

A heritage property is considered to be one that is culturally or historically significant. Monuments, memorials, works of art that are found inside the property, and any unique and identifying factors that mean the building stands out as being important in its own right may be considered a heritage property. In terms of history, this means that the country’s oldest buildings are typically considered heritage buildings, while those that have played a significant part in the country’s or area’s history may also be considered a historic heritage property.

According to the BSIA guide, heritage crime is considered to be any crime that damages the heritage. This means that even modernising by the current owners or caretakers of a particular building could actually be considered heritage crime. Vandalism and intentional damage are considered to be chief among the acts that cost the most money in heritage crime. Vacant properties are not only prone to squatting, but they are often used to hold illegal parties and raves, while criminal activities may also take place. Any damage caused by these is chalked up as heritage crime damage.

Arguably the most expensive crimes committed against heritage buildings, however, is theft. Some old buildings contain artwork, antiques, and other items that have significant value and this means that buildings are targeted for these items. Often, the criminal is unaware of the true value of pieces that they take, or they may be unable to achieve a reasonable value because of how well known the piece is. This has seen some historical artefacts and pieces of art sold for scrap value alone.

There are special considerations to take into account when dealing with heritage security. Buildings and items that are considered to have heritage value need to be properly maintained, and any security efforts should be covert and out of the way of the public eye. Cameras and lights, for example, should secure the building and its valuables but without detracting from the overall value and significance of the items in question.
 
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