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Google Earth Helps Thieves Steal Lead from British Churches

lead roofRemember Tom Berge, the English builder who used Google Earth to steal lead tiles from the roofs of nearby buildings? Well, it turns out there are plenty more metal scavengers just like him -- and they're making life especially difficult for Britain's churches.

According to Tony Baldry, estate commissioner for the Church of England, roughly 8,000 churches have made insurance claims for lead theft over the past three years, totaling over $35 million. One parish, in particular, has been targeted a full 14 times. "The effect on the morale of parishioners and communities is devastating," Baldry said in a statement released yesterday. "Night after night, lead is being stolen from church roofs, and thieves now use Google Earth to identify targets, including church roofs."

Not surprisingly, lead prices are relatively high nowadays, as the economic downturn and eurozone crisis have turned many investors toward "safer" metal commodities. One metric ton of lead can fetch about $2,400 on the metals market today, compared with less than $900 in 2008. "The higher the price of lead, the more churches are stripped of it," Baldry said.

"We have seen the significant disruption that metal theft causes to critical national infrastructure throughout the United Kingdom," said Home Office minister James Brokenshire. "That includes power and transport networks, with the stealing of live copper cable, which has resulted in death and serious injury for people involved." That certainly sounds risky. Maybe these Google-friendly gangs would be better off turning their attention to koi.

Tags: church, ChurchOfEngland, crime, england, google, GoogleEarth, lead, metal, money, thief, top, uk, Web