Action urged in plan to protect war memorials from 'upsetting' thefts
WAR memorials should be treated with an anti-theft product to help combat "disgraceful" criminals, according to a new group.
There are more than 1,500 memorials in Derbyshire to people who died serving in the two world wars, including about 300 in Derby.
They range from cenotaphs in towns and villages to plaques in community rooms, public buildings and business premises.
The Derbyshire City and County War Memorials Committee – which includes councillors and representatives from the Royal British Legion and the National Inventory of War Memorials – has been set up to preserve and protect the inscriptions.
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Councillor David Wilson, from the county council, said one of its first tasks would be to combat thieves.
To do this, the committee is urging organisations which have memorials in their care to step up security, including using SmartWater, which contains a chemical code that helps police trace stolen goods.
The committee's aim is to ensure all council-owned monuments are treated with SmartWater in 2012.
Mr Wilson, who was in the Army for 25 years and is also chairman of the Alfreton and District Royal British Legion, said: "The theft of plaques commemorating our war dead from memorials is a disgraceful crime.
"Not only is it disrespectful and upsetting but it may be that the plaque is the only record of those names. SmartWater cannot stop someone who is determined to steal a plaque but it makes it so much easier for police to trace them and identify where the plaque has come from."
Derby City Council leader Councillor Philip Hickson is also on the committee. He said he wanted to make it "impossible" for metal thieves to cash in on stolen items.
He said: "We will work with the police and all interested bodies to make sure we protect the wide range of war memorials we have, which are both tributes to those that have given their lives for this country and part of our national heritage."
Last year, the Derby Telegraph reported that thieves had stolen 13 metal memorial plaques from a graveyard off Church Drive, Sandiacre, while bronze plaques commemorating First World War casualties were taken from Derby's Midland Railway War Memorial.