Clampdown on metal thieves keeps plaques on war memorials safe
METAL thieves have been keeping away from plaques on Derbyshire war memorials since the formation of a specialist committee.
A dedicated police operation and the use of SmartWater are cited as reasons why the plaques have not been stolen.
A meeting of the new Derbyshire War Memorials Committee was told this week how there had been no thefts of plaques so far this year.
Councillor David Wilson sits on the committee.
He said: "Although there are no figures and the evidence is anecdotal, we have not received any reports of war memorials being targeted by metal thieves so far this year.
"This is great news and we are putting it down to three factors.
"Firstly, the police ran the very successful Operation Calanthia, which targeted metal thieves and received a lot of Press coverage.
"Secondly, we have written to every council in Derbyshire, urging them to register their war memorials with us.
"In return, they have been given SmartWater [a liquid containing a code which can be read under ultraviolet light] which has been applied to the memorials.
"This is specific and individual and stays on the skin and clothing of any thieves.
"If caught, there is, therefore, no doubt of their guilt.
"Thirdly, the public's perception of people who steal from war memorials is one of outrage and quite rightly so."
There are more than 1,500 memorials in Derbyshire to people who died serving in both 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.
Last year, thieves stole 13 metal memorial plaques from a graveyard off Church Drive, Sandiacre.
Bronze plaques commemorating First World War victims were taken from Derby's Midland Railway War Memorial.
The memorials committee is made up of representatives from Derbyshire County Council, Derby City Council, the Royal British Legion and the National Inventory of War Memorials.
It was set up in response to those two thefts.
Mr Wilson was in the Army for 25 years and is chairman of the Alfreton and District Royal British Legion branch.
He said: "The fact that the British Army is still in conflict in Afghanistan means that the public is highly aware of the sacrifices servicemen and women have made over the years and whose names appear on war memorials in the county."
Councillor Philip Hickson represents Derby City Council on the committee.
He said: "Preserving war memorials now and for future generations is of paramount importance so that the names of those who gave their lives serving their country are preserved for years to come.
"Knowing that the committee and the police are winning the war against metal thieves is hugely encouraging."