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As Copper Prices Rise, English Churches Lose Roofs to Theft

New alarms have been fitted on 100 church roofs across England in a new scheme to tackle the spate of copper thefts prompted by an increase in the metal's price.

Investors on the prowl for hard assets, take note: The Church of England is ordering parishes across that nation to install sophisticated motion-detecting alarm systems — on their roofs. Gold isn’t the only metal that’s benefiting from the postcrisis flight to safety: International prices of copper continue to climb, and the rooftops of ancient English churches are covered in the stuff.

According to Ecclesiastical, a British company that writes insurance policies for churches, more than 2,600 claims for stolen copper rooftops were reported by parishes last year, an all-time high. The response to this grim side effect of rising copper prices is “Hands Off Our Church Roofs,” a program spearheaded by the Lord Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. The bishop recently told the British press that “since the metal vandals have descended in such hordes over the years, our duty of maintenance has become nearly impossible.” The alarms they’re installing on an initial 100 English churches emit a deep voice announcing that the theft of copper roofing is taking place.

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