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Initial Investigation by a Local Authority

Responding to incidents

  1. If a local authority is concerned about a current or recent incident of crime affecting a heritage asset it should contact the police either immediately on 999 in the case of a current incident (ie where suspects are still at the scene) or on 101 to report a recent crime or incident in order to discuss what action should be taken by them.
  2. Be prepared to assist with the preparation of a witness statement or impact statement if requested as part of any formal police action as a result of the incident to ensure the full impact of the crime or incident of anti social behaviour on the community and the heritage significance is considered as part of the sentencing process.
  3. Also consider if there is anything that could be done to make the asset more secure from further threats of crime and anti social behaviour.
  4. Consider whether it is appropriate to use any of the statutory enforcement powers available including prosecution, as an appropriate response to the heritage crime.
  5. Discuss with the local Historic England office to consider the appropriate response in the case of crimes involving a designated asset i.e., scheduled monuments, nationally listed buildings, conservation areas, registered parks and gardens, registered battlefields, protected wreck sites and World Heritage Sites. More infomation on Interventions Guidance.
  6. Also consider working with your local Community Safety Team to consider if there is anything that could be done to make the asset more secure from further threats of crime and anti social behaviour.

Graffiti on Greyfriars Church in Gloucester
Graffiti on Greyfriars Church which has now been removed successfully. © Historic England

The strategic role

Local authorities have an important strategic role in the fight against heritage crime. Local problems should have local solutions. Historic England can offer bespoke assistance to any local authority wishing to take a strategic role in dealing with Heritage Crime. 

Steps for a local authority to consider are:

  1. Identification of the designated heritage assets in their area. This information can be found on the National Heritage List for England or their own Historic Environment Records.
  2. Focussing effort on heritage assets most at risk using the Quick Risk Assessment tool.
  3. Reducing the risks by implementing Heritage Crime Prevention Measures.
  4. Setting up a partnership and collaborative arrangements with other organisations involved in crime reduction and enforcement or protecting the historic environment in the area. A partnership model based on Neighbourhood Policing and Community Safety Partnerships has been developed for the prevention of heritage crime and has been agreed with the Police and other interested bodies. The local police service may already have identified a police officer with responsibility for dealing with heritage crime issues who will sometimes also be the officer with responsibility for wildlife and environmental crime. A number of local authorities host police officers within local community safety teams.
  5. Consider meeting with your local Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) who are responsible for reducing crime and for the delivery an effective and efficient police service within their force area. Police and crime commissioners will ensure community needs are met as effectively as possible, and will improve local relationships through building confidence and restoring trust. They will also work in partnership across a range of agencies at local and national level to ensure there is a unified approach to preventing and reducing crime. Contact your local PCC - Police and Crime Commissioners
  6. Identifying other local groups who may be usefully involved in a partnership include local civic or amenity trusts and societies who are interested in the historic environment and may include Neighbourhood /Farm/Heritage Watch organisations. Parish councils, churches and other landowners with assets vulnerable to heritage crime may also wish to be involved in a partnership.
  7. Ensuring that  heritage crime is included within the existing systems and processes of already established methods of managing crime and promoting safety in the area (eg Community Safety Partnerships). Also consider recording incidents of heritage crime in the area for statistical purposes.
  8. Consider signing the Heritage Crime Enforcement Memorandum of Understanding and/or joining the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage ARCH to institute local relationships and keep up to date with news and strategic information from the National Heritage and Cultural Property Crime Working Group (HCPCWG).
  9. Considering the heritage crime prevention and enforcement models adopted by Cheshire West and Chester Council and Heritage Watch groups.
  10. Being prepared to take enforcement proceedings for regulatory offences and use the various enforcement powers available to a local authority to deal with buildings suffering from neglect which affect the amenity of an area and can encourage incidents of anti social behaviour and heritage crime. Also supporting action taken by others such as the police and amenity societies by proving impact statements for example.

Please look at the Memorandum of Understanding to understand the division of responsibilities nationally agreed between the Police, Historic England and the Crown Prosecution Service.

You might use the National Heritage List for England to consider the heritage assets in your area.

If your authority has not yet signed the MOU you might like to consider doing so.

You might like to consider becoming a member of ARCH.

You might like to consider developing a Heritage Crime Partnership in your area with other interested bodies. You will find useful guidance on this from Cheshire West and Chester Council.

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Mark Harrison

National Policing and Crime Advisor

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