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Lead fiends' summer spree targets schools
METAL thieves have struck at five schools in West Oxfordshire this summer, stealing thousands of pounds worth of lead.
West Witney Primary has been hit twice in the summer holidays so far.
The Deer Park school was targeted between July 24 and 31 and again overnight on Tuesday.
There have been eight other thefts at five other schools since June.
Det Sgt Dick White, from Witney Police Station, said: “This is a heinous crime which will have a serious impact on the infrastructure of our schools here in Witney.
“Removing lead from roofs means that rain will get into the building causing serious damage inside.
“It will cost a lot to replace it all, in terms of money, inconvenience and disruption. It is very unsettling for our community.”
Henry Box School has been hit twice – once between June 22 and 29, and again between July 28 and 29.
The Springfield special school was hit between July 9 and 13, and Our Lady of Lourdes School between July 13 and 16.
The town campus of Abingdon & Witney College was also targeted twice – on July 19 and between June 28 and 29.
College deputy principal Di Batchelor said: “It is very disheartening for the college to be a victim of crime in this way, and we very much feel for our local schools who have been similarly affected.
“We are doing everything we can to support the police in tackling this issue and would join them in encouraging any witnesses to come forward.”
The Mulberry Bush School in Standlake was also raided by lead thieves between August 2 and 3.
Metalprices.com states lead was last month worth about £1.64 a kilo.
Dc Adrian Brooksbank, of Witney Police, said it was not possible to say exactly how much lead was taken from the schools.
But he said: “Overall, with all the offences, we are probably into thousands of pounds worth.
“A small amount of lead can weigh a lot.”
He said the thefts could be linked, but police were keeping an open mind.
Melinda Tilley, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for education, said: “I don’t understand people who do things like this.
“It’s shame these people attack buildings like schools which are used by the whole community and are important to everyone.”
Last month £700 of lead was stolen from the roof of town community centre Langdale Hall.
And St Mary’s Church in Witney lost about £1,000 of lead to thieves over Christmas last year.
Town mayor Harry Eaglestone said: “It’s a shocking state of affairs when people resort to these sorts of things.”
Anyone who saw anything suspicious near the schools should call police on 101 or contact the Crimestoppers charity anonymously on 0800 555111.
Metal theft has become a nationwide problem fuelled by the rising price of metal.
As part of a new initiative, called Operation Tornado, police are working with scrap metal dealers to make it harder for thieves.
Under the scheme, individuals are required to provide proof of their identity when trying to sell scrap metal to dealers.