Skip to content

Sharing expertise: tackling heritage crime through professional partnership

David spent time on secondment at English david jamesHeritage working with Mark Harrison, National Policing and Crime Adviser. Here he talks about his experiences.

Protecting the historic environment, it’s not easy is it? From suspect building ‘improvements’ and poor maintenance to good old-fashioned crime, there are many risks out there to deal with. Around 20% of listed buildings are harmed by crime every year and that figure nearly doubles for listed places of worship.

We are specialists in heritage insurance with responsibility for insuring 10 of the UK’s 27 World Heritage Sites and more than 50% of Grade I-listed buildings.We have been working in partnership with English Heritage for a number of years, but a full-time secondment to the Heritage Crime team recently provided me with the opportunity to share more of our expertise and strengthen this relationship.

Prior to my secondment I had worked in a number of Ecclesiastical teams, which brought me into contact with heritage assets and the people responsible for their upkeep. My experience ranged from restoring damage caused by heritage crime, when working in our technical claims team, to providing customers with practical advice as part of my current role as a Risk Services Surveyor.

This practical experience was put to good use during the secondment, when we developed two separate risk assessment tools. The first is a fairly simple tool that can be used by practitioners or volunteers with little or no technical experience. It consists of a number of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions about the key risk factors affecting heritage assets. The second is a more detailed survey tool that can be used by experienced practitioners and crime prevention officers to provide a more comprehensive quantitative assessment of the level of risk an asset faces.

The purpose of both tools is to identify the most vulnerable assets in an area so local effort and resources – for example, the time of volunteers and Police Community Support Officers and the support of financial grants – can be focused on those assets most at risk. Initial testing and feedback on the assessments has been positive and final testing is now underway with the East of England crime prevention group.

When you encourage people to think about the consequences of the loss or damage to a heritage asset you find a real desire to combat this type of crime. Estimates suggest that every year 450,000 people volunteer their time in support of heritage assets, so the workforce is clearly out there. The tools and guidance developed as part of the programme should enable them to make a difference, whether they are skilled practitioners or not.  On a personal level, the secondment has allowed me to bring a wealth of contacts and knowledge back to Ecclesiastical. In particular, the time spent with heritage practitioners on the front line has enhanced my understanding of the day-to-day issues these experts face – insights that I and my colleagues will now be able make valuable use of in our dealings with our own customers in the heritage sector.

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.