Antiquities, Art History, Looted Art

Vandals and Thieves Using Google Earth to Inflict Egregious Damage on Britain’s Heritage Sites

In its issue of March 19, The Telegraph reports that metal thieves are using Google Earth and other online resources to identify Britain’s historic buildings to plunder.

 Metal theft 'epidemic one of biggest threat to UK's heritage'

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev Christopher Lowson, has spoken out about the high number of lead thefts from churches Photo: Alamy

Historically important sites are being irrevocably damaged by criminals who plunder them for “trophies” which cannot be replaced.

Mike Harlow, legal director at English Heritage, said he believed internet mapping services and his own organisation risked leaving heritage sites vulnerable to attack by making so much information about them available online.

He told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme: “There are particular threats at the moment because of the valuable materials that there are on old buildings

“People can find, relatively easily through the internet, where ancient sites are and where they can go trophy hunting for artefacts.

“Google Earth and all the facilities we, English Heritage, put online [are] fabulous if you want to go and find the stuff because you’re interested in it but if you want to steal it makes it easier.

Some of Harlow’s more alarming reports are that:

  • more than 200 crimes a day are being committed against Britain’s historic sites
  • more than 75,000 “heritage crimes” took place in 2011
  • the damage suffered included metal theft, vandalism, graffiti and arson, with one in eight important sites being attacked
  • the “most precious buildings were worst affected”, with nearly a quarter of Grade I and II* listed structures subject to some type of criminal damage
  • researchers, who uncovered an “unprecedented volume of information”, believe the figure could be much higher as one in three heritage-related crimes go unreported.

Read the full article here.

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