Northampton trials Signature Materials metal theft deterrent

In a move designed to reduce the incidence of metal theft from historic buildings in Northampton town centre, Signature Materials' new permanent metal marking technique is being deployed.

The technology, developed by the Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining (IOM3), engraves metals with full details of the ownership and location of the material can be visually checked by the police, scrap dealers and border control agencies and against a national database. The issue concerning the provenance of scrap metal can therefore be established at the point of metal seizure.

Lead roofing at St Peter’s Church and the Northampton Guildhall have been elected for initial trials and more locations within the area are being identified for test marking. The technology which was first used for aerospace and automotive applications has been adapted by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining for the marking of most metals with copper and lead widely used in electrical and construction applications being first to be launched.

Commenting on the Northampton development, Dr Dale Dishon, English Heritage’s Principal Inspector for Northamptonshire, said: ‘theft of metal from historic buildings is a serious concern and we welcome the development of any non-harmful deterrents which can help in the battle against heritage crime.’

A spokesperson for the Churches Conservation Trust added, “We are very pleased to contribute to the testing of methods which will reduce the incidents of lead theft. Lead theft is a persistent problem, which takes up huge amounts of time and money to deal with.  As a national charity caring for over 340 historic churches we are very keen to support innovation in the area of protecting lead roofs against theft."

Power and telecommunication cables, lightning conductors, lead gel batteries and lead roofs are applications that the process has been applied to and development work is continuing at Signature Materials based in Grantham to take the technology further.

IOM3 have been active in the Forum for Innovation in Crime Prevention throughout the development of the Signature Materials project. Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said, “This is a great example of organisations using new technology to tackle metal theft, a crime which has been striking at the very heart of communities and businesses across the country.”