Pickpockets prey on church-goers

PICKPOCKETS are prowling the pews of Royston’s churches.

Phones, wallets, and even a communion chalice have been snatched in recent months, and church leaders are warning parishioners to be on their guard when visiting churches.

Les Harman, vicar at Royston parish church St John The Baptist, said: “It’s been an ongoing problem here for some time, and I know it affects the other churches, like the Methodists and Catholics too.

“We’ve had all sorts of things taken, from people’s handbags and wallets, to the Communion chalice and collection bag.

“We’ve also had people going through the letter rack looking for money in envelopes.

“These thieves obviously need cash for whatever reason, it’s a troubling situation.”

Churches in Royston are now working with Royston’s crime prevention team to tackle the problem, and Mr Harman said he and his team had been putting in extra security measures.

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“We’ve looked at installing closed circuit television, but it is expensive so that’s not a route we’re going down just yet,” he said.

“We’re asking people to be more vigilant when they come to church, and we’re making sure the door of the vestry is kept closed during the day when there is no one around.

“People want to be able to come into the church to pray or for a time of quiet reflection, so we want the doors to remain open, but at the same time discourage this kind of criminal behaviour.”

Royston’s Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant Jon Vine said: “There have been four incidents to date since the start of the year, and while this is obviously concerning for victims, I would like to reassure residents that these incidents are not a regular occurrence in Royston.

“Crime in Royston has fallen and people should feel confident to go about their daily business.

“Specialist crime prevention officers have been specifically working with the church community in relation to the thefts to advise them on crime prevention methods they can put in place.

“The Neighbourhood Team will continue to work hard to further reduce crime and further improve feelings of safety.

“And we would like to remind people that thieves are opportunist, and to ensure they don’t leave personal belongings unattended.”