POLICE officers in West Lancashire are to start a new operation against “heritage crime” after a successful crackdown on outside criminals.

Operation Castle has now begun and will catch those who damage and steal from buildings or sites considered important local landmarks.

Previously, police in Lancashire have had reports of the removal of lead and steal from church roofs and statues.

This follows a second operation – codenamed “Monaco” – which targeted criminals coming into West Lancashire from outside areas to break the law.

Monaco saw officers from West Lancashire conduct 121 stop and searches, seize eight vehicles due to invalid insurance and arrest ten individuals including for drug-related crimes.

Inspector Andy Willis said: “Operation Castle will protect our local heritage of cultural significance which has real value to the community that cannot be directly measured.

“If a thief strips a church roof of lead, they do not only cause damage to the roof, but can also cause a significant amount of damage to the building which can be repaired, but never replaced.

“This of course follows Operation Monaco which was just the first of a number of actions we will be taking this year against law-breakers coming into West Lancashire to cause trouble.

“Around one-in-three crimes are committed by those from outside our district borders and we are determined to clampdown on the practice.

“We continue to work closely with the community in our crime-fighting efforts and appreciate any information that could be relevant . You can give this totally anonymously.”

People with information can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or on-line at Crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.

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