New guard dog patrols to stop Camden cemetery metal thieves

Cemeteries in Camden are to get extra security measures including dog patrols to thwart metal thieves looking to snatch bronze, copper and brass.

Hampstead Cemetery and St Pancras Cemetery will benefit from the additional safeguards.

The measures come in the wake of fittings being stolen from the elaborate Bianchi memorial at Hampstead Cemetery last October.

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “Metal theft is on the rise across the country with the current economic climate and we are looking at what we can do to further protect our cemeteries.

“This includes securing the site at dusk and the use of security patrols with dogs where appropriate.”

The increase in metal thefts has been linked to the high price of scrap metal and the Metropolitan Police set up a special taskforce to tackle the crime last month.

The extra security measures at Camden’s cemeteries have been welcomed by community groups.

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Bernard Heymann, chairman of the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery, said: “The problem is that nobody can be there all the time.

“Those people are so brazen, they can get in and not be noticed. I think it’s a good thing everyone’s aware. The more publicity the better.”

He urged visitors to be alert and report people turning up at the cemetery in strange vans, warning thieves do not always operate at night.

Michael Hammerson, of the Highgate Society, also emphasised vigilance by the community, particularly in the face of limited funds.

“I think the penalties ought to be as high as possible,” he said. “It’s a disgraceful thing to do.”

Cemeteries are not the only potential target for thieves.

The grounds of Kenwood House have several sculptures including a limestone artwork by Barbara Hepworth, the artist whose bronze sculpture was stolen from Dulwich Park in December.

But security is already tight to guard sculptures such as the massive Henry Moore bronze, Two Piece Reclining Figure, in Kenwood’s grounds.

A spokesperson for English Heritage, which runs Kenwood House, said: “Security measures at Kenwood House and estate are of the highest level and are regularly reviewed.

“There is a constant security presence with regular patrols, and CCTV is employed at key points in the estate.”