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What is Heritage Crime?

Heritage crime is "any offence which harms the value of England's heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations".

Heritage assets are sites which are considered to have a value to the heritage of England and include:

  • Listed buildings
  • Scheduled monuments
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected marine wreck sites
  • Conservation areas
  • Registered parks and gardens
  • Registered battlefields
  • Protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest
  • Undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites

Some of these heritage assets are protected by specific criminal offences to prevent harm caused by damage and unlicensed alteration.

However, other crimes such as theft, criminal damage, arson and anti-social behaviour offences can also damage and harm heritage assets and interfere with the public's enjoyment and knowledge of heritage assets.

Mountain bike damage to Roddenbury Hillfort
Mountain bike damage to Roddenbury Hillfort

How big a problem is heritage crime?

Historic England commissioned research by Newcastle University, Loughborough University and the Council of British Archaeology into the scale of heritage crime in England.

A summary note 'Heritage Crime: The Size of the Problem' and the full research paper are available to download from this page. 

The research indicated that:

  • An estimated 18.7% of all listed buildings were physically affected by crime last year. That is over 70,000 listed buildings. 
  • For almost 30,000 listed buildings the impact was substantial. 
  • The biggest single threat is metal theft and the most threatened type of building is a church. About 3 in 8 churches or other religious buildings were damaged by crime last year.

What is being done about heritage crime?

Historic England, together with the Police (through the Association of chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has set up the Heritage Crime Programme.

Each of these three organisations has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which sets out their responsibilities for tackling heritage crime.

A growing number of local authorities have also joined this coordinated effort and signed the MOU. 

Aerial shot of roof damage to Sandhill Park
Aerial shot of roof damage to Sandhill Park © Avon and Somerset Police
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