CHURCH raiders are going to extremes in a bid to steal from places of worship across the area.
Last year there were 14 incidents of burglary and theft at places of worship in Sunderland and East Durham.
Some of the more unusual items stolen include a stained glass window, an organ pipe, 400 litres of kerosene, an engraved miners lamp and some wooden cupboard doors.
There has also been many metal thefts which could be due to the high price currently for scrap.
Metal items that were on the list include silver candlesticks and collection plates, a metal gong, a brass candelabra and lead flashing.
Last year, an emergency meeting was held between churches in Durham and the police after metal theft costs over recent years reached almost half a million pounds.
In 2008 Lee Everist, 24, was jailed for five months after admitting stealing £20,000-worth of lead from St John’s Church, Seaham.
The roof, which had been paid for after a 10 year fund-raising campaign, had only been in place for two weeks before the lead was stolen.
And in 2009 thieves struck at St Nicholas’s Church, West Boldon, taking more than £16,000-worth of lead. Verger Jim Jenkins described the crime as “despicable”.
A spokesman for Durham Diocese said: “The Church like everyone else in the community from time to time finds itself the victim of crime.
“Although we have experienced a range of thefts over the last year, one of the most worrying in recent months has been the theft of lead, which has hit both churches and our insurers very hard indeed.
“We work very closely with the police to try to ensure that the potential for such crimes are minimised, challenged and the causes tackled wherever possible.
“Being a victim of crime is always deeply disturbing, and in this respect we are no different.
“Local churches face the issues of crime in our communities but we remain committed to being here to serve our communities and share the love of God.”