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Culture bosses launch scheme to protect Kent heritage against crime

PUBLISHED: 16:00 23 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:00 23 February 2017

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

ben & kristen bryant

Country Eye, a new crime prevention app, has been created as part of the drive

Culture bosses have this week launched a scheme to protect Kent’s heritage against crime.

Heritage Watch encourages the public to use their eyes and ears to help detect offences in areas across the county, using tools such as Country Eye, a new crime prevention app.

Heritage crime is any offence which harms the value of heritage assets and their settings for this and future generations.

It covers a wide variety of criminal activity that is responsible for damaging historic buildings and sites.

These offences range from graffiti, vandalism, theft of metal and stone, arson and unlawful salvage of shipwrecks.

This activity can damage historic sites beyond repair, or even mean that a prized piece of history is lost forever.

Mark Harrison, national policing and crime advisor for Historic England told delegates at the Leeds Castle launch: “Heritage Watch provides the opportunity to identify the criminal minority that are intent on causing loss or damage to our shared cultural heritage.

“The Heritage Watch partnership and the Country Eye app provide the community with modern technology that helps us protect Kent’s past for future generations.”

Sandra Matthews-Marsh, CEO, Visit Kent added: “Kent is a treasure trove of some of England’s finest heritage assets attracting over 60 million visitors each year.

“Heritage Watch is a way in which we can all be involved in ensuring these wonderful places are secured for future generations.

“We will be promoting Heritage Watch to all Visit Kent partners to get behind the campaign.”

Kent’s police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott gave a closing speech to officially launch Heritage Watch.

“The cost of crime in rural areas is reportedly more than £800million across England and Wales, and heritage crime can represent a large proportion of that,” he said.

“If criminals target our heritage sites and they subsequently have to close, that can result in the loss of jobs or tourism in the local area; and then there is the cultural impact on a community which can’t be measured in simple monetary terms.

“By their very nature heritage sites across Kent like churches, monuments and war memorials, and wrecks off our coasts, are vulnerable to crime so it is fantastic that the agencies here have worked together to start up a new Heritage Watch scheme.

“I encourage everyone to download the free Country Eye app from the Heritage Watch website and use it to report anything suspicious in their communities to the Country Eye volunteers so that information can be passed to the relevant authority.

“Of course if anyone wishes to report a crime they should still dial 101, or 999 if a crime is in progress or life in danger, and speak to Kent Police directly.”

In Kent and Medway there are currently 17,944 listed buildings, 422 scheduled monuments, 62 registered parks and gardens, 11 protected wrecks and two world heritage sites.

Leeds Castle is a registered park and garden and there are 10 listed buildings within the registered park boundary.

The Heritage Watch launch was attended by representatives from heritage venues across Kent and key heritage crime prevention organisations who will share information to tackle crime.

“The key to Heritage Watch is raising awareness,” said website and launch sponsor Terry Roffer of Brook Security.

“It’s up to each of us to take responsibility to help preserve our heritage.”

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