Copper thieves target Sweden’s churches

Tourists and church-goers are not the only ones to be drawn to Sweden's many attractive copper-roofed churches.

A surge of copper thefts have left the country’s churches reeling.

“We’ve seen a sharp increase during 2011,” Leif Eriksson, CEO of Kyrkans Försäkring, the insurance company in charge of insuring 60 percent of Sweden’s churches, told The Local on Monday.

“Thefts increase every year, but this year they’ve really taken off,” he said.

In 2010, a total of 27 copper thefts were reported, costing churches a damage cost of 1.3 million kronor ($198,000). So far in 2011, 26 thefts have already been registered, at a total cost of 1.8 million kronor.

The roofs are expensive to rebuild, and replacing a roof containing 30,000 kronor worth of copper can cost as much as 500,000 kronor.

Copper is an attractive material, and more and more churches are now looking to replace the stolen goods with some other material, of less interest to potential thieves.

Leif Eriksson believes that smaller parts, such as copper drainpipes, may come to be replaced with other materials when the copper has been stolen repeatedly.

Copper roofs however, are hard to avoid, as many churches are protected buildings falling under cultural heritage regulations, where the original material must be used when renovating.

“There’s a heavy pressure on churches to have copper roofs,” said Eriksson.

He hopes that publicising the growing problem will lead to a change in future.

“We have to trumpet this in papers, and make the public more aware. People need to know to call the police if they see anything strange.”

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