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Metal thieves target Somerset school for £3,000 lead theft

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: February 21, 2013

Ansford Academy

Crime scene: Ansford Academy near Castle Cary which was targeted by metal thieves who stole £3,000 of lead from the school roof in a heist at the premises last month

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Metal thieves have been accused of putting children’s education at risk after targeting a school.

Lead worth around £3,000 has been stolen from the roof of Ansford Academy near Castle Cary.

Police are appealing for witnesses and the act has been condemned by community leaders.

Ansford Parish Council chairman Janette Cronie said metal theft was causing a lot of concern in the area.

“To steal from a local school is just wrong. You can’t believe people would stoop so low.

“Money that could be spent on things that would directly benefit the education of our children could now have to be spent on addressing the theft.

“We have seen churches and empty buildings affected in the past but it is really sad and disappointing that nothing seems to be safe from these crooks.

“We are talking about the education of our young people and their future. They will make up the community of tomorrow and directly or indirectly they are affected by this.

“You just wonder where the thieves are going to target next.”

This week Avon and Somerset Constabulary said metal theft had declined by 75 per cent in the force area in the past eight months.

The force said a cross-border partnership with Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Constabularies was helping to clamp down on thieves.

Spokeswoman Miriam Brown said Avon and Somerset had also introduced an ID scheme.

She added that new Government legislation now forbids scrap metal being sold for cash so transactions can be traced by cheque or electronically.

Detective Superintendent Mark Saunders said: “We will continue to work with our police colleagues, partner agencies and commercial industries to take an intrusive approach in dealing with the thieves and handlers who make money at a cost to each and every taxpayer.

“We have been successfully working with scrap dealers for a number of years with an aim to decreasing the market in which thieves can operate. The industry has responded very positively to schemes and the majority of dealers are legitimate and lawful businesses who proactively engage with us.”

Metal thefts have been rife across the Wincanton, Castle Cary and Bruton areas in recent years.

Historic buildings such as the Market House and the Priory in Castle Cary are among those that have been targeted.

Templecombe Primary School was raided three times in an 18 month period and in 2011, Valentine’s Day celebrations at the Holbrook House Hotel in Wincanton were struck when a heart-shaped metal sign was stolen.

Nick Weeks, South Somerset district councillor for the Cary war said: “This a real issue in rural communities and it comes as no surprise that thieves would target a school.

“We know action is being taken but it still seems that with metal prices being high that there are those willing to take the opportunity to steal.”

Ansford Academy principal Rob Benzie was unavailable for comment.

Anyone with information on the theft, which happened between Monday, January 21 and Sunday, January 27, should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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