A total of £45,000 worth of lead has been stolen from the roofs of schools in the North Eastern Education and Library Board’s area over the past nine months.
The series of thefts was highlighted in a report to members of the Board’s Finance and General Purposes Committee meeting in Antrim.
Former East Antrim MP Roy Beggs led the chorus of disapproval from Committee members.
“We should be asking for the cooperation of residents who live in the vicinity of schools to immediately report any unlawful activity they see,” Mr Beggs said. “I would also call for legislation to be introduced to control scrap dealers who are buying the stolen lead. We need to widen awareness of what’s going on and the police should be constantly checking scrap yards to prevent the sale of stolen scrap metal.”
Mr Beggs found support from Carrickfergus Councillor James Brown who said that when he drew attention to the theft of lead at one school the PSNI claimed they did not know about it.
Coleraine Councillor Samuel Cole agreed with the need to highlight the issue and ensure that the figures on thefts from schools were not buried. He said he too had raised the issue of lead theft from schools at the local police forum because the police seemed unaware of it.
Vice Chairman Joe Donaghy said that if all District Councils were made aware of the properties damaged they could highlight them at Policing Partnership meetings.
In East Antrim thieves struck on 34 occasions to steal lead worth over £30,000 with several schools being targeted on more than one occasion. At the worst hit school the damage cost the Board £7,000.
Five Coleraine schools were targeted at a total cost of some £10,000, with over half of this due to five incidents of theft at one primary school.
Other parts of the Board’s area escaped the attention of the thieves in recent months.
In the majority of cases the Board has used lead substitute to replace the stolen material when repairing the damaged school properties. All incidents were reported to the PSNI at the time the lead theft was discovered by the schools.