POLICE are stepping up patrols and asking for the public’s help to protect North Yorkshire’s historic sites.

The county boasts many nationally-important sites, from scheduled ancient monuments like the remains of Roman forts, to the natural landscapes of the Dales and North York Moors.

However, they are at risk from heritage crime which can include criminal damage, arson, theft of artefacts and metal and unauthorised metal detecting.

Inspector Matt Hagen, of the Rural Taskforce, said: “Repairing the damage caused to heritage assets is expensive – but the cost to communities is often immeasurable.

“We all need to work together to protect these sites, so that future generations can continue to enjoy them for many years to come."

Insp Hagen said this can be achieved by supporting rural watch schemes and encouraging people to report incidents.

The Northern Echo:

In June 2020, offenders daubed graffiti and caused damage to the ruins of a medieval castle in the Hambleton district.

The owner said the damage would cost tens of thousands of pounds to put right.

In July 2020, damage was caused to the window of a building at Wharram Percy, the site of an abandoned medieval village.

A witness noticed what was happening, and reported the offenders’ car registration number to the police.

Officers were able to identify the offenders, who, as part of a community resolution, agreed to make a donation to charity towards the cost of repairing the damage.

Metal thieves often target lead roofing on historic buildings – particularly churches.

Stolen metal can be difficult to identify and the damage to buildings can be significant.

In early 2019, lead was stolen from the roof St Lawrence’s Church in Kirby Misperton and damage caused to stonework.

Sadly, earlier this year, rain entered the church through temporary roofing and damaged walls, plaster, paintings and carpets.

The damage will cost more than £60,000 to put right – far more than the value of the stolen lead.

Community events such as baptisms and weddings have had to be postponed.

PC Jez Walmsley, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “This type of crime is very much related to the price of lead and copper.

"Very simply, the higher the price of lead, the more this sort of crime goes up, because the thieves can get a better return on their work.”

Anyone who spots suspicious activity should call 999 if a crime is in progress or the non-emergency number 101.