ACTION is planned to crack down on criminals who are wreaking havoc on historic buildings and monuments in Chester.
Thieves and vandals targeting treasured landmarks in the city as well as across the county in villages including Tarvin and Malpas are causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Soaring values of second-hand scrap metal have seen lead, copper and bronze plundered from ancient roofs, war memorial plaques and guttering.
And many historical landmarks have been hit by vandalism, graffiti and arson, or used as a public toilet and drug-taking den.
During the past year criminals have targeted the citys Roman remains, The Rows, Chester Cathedral, Beeston Castle and a Second World War pillbox in Saltney.
There has also been 14 attacks on churches as well as incidents involving war memorials and manor houses.
As a result about 50 delegates with law enforcement and heritage expertise will meet in the city tomorrow (Friday) to find a way of combating the crimes.
The seminar on Prevention and Detection of Heritage Crime, which takes place at the 17th-century Bishop Lloyds Palace, is hosted by Cheshire West and Chester Council and led by chief inspector Mark Harrison, a policing advisor to English Heritage.
Assistant chief constable of Cheshire Ruth Purdie, who will open Fridays seminar, said: Criminal behaviour and soaring metal prices during the economic downturn has seen incidents of churches stripped of lead and war memorials desecrated in our area.
Individuals have been charged with lead theft from St Werburghs Church in Chester and with handling stolen goods after a war memorial commemorating fallen soldiers was stolen in Willaston earlier this autumn.
Cheshire Police will use all means at our disposal to help deter and detect this type of crime, however we need assistance from our local communities to build an intelligence picture of criminal activity around those locations that are vulnerable to heritage crime.
This can include historic landmarks, buildings, monuments or places of natural beauty. Local communities are urged to understand the heritage assets in their area that may be at risk of irreversible damage from crime and to report any suspicious behaviour to their local neighbourhood policing teams.
CWaC heritage champion Cllr Hilarie McNae added: Whatever the cause, heritage crime is taking a terrible toll on the conservation of our ancient buildings and monuments and as the caretakers of thousands of years of history we have a responsibility to do everything we can to stop it.
It has frequently been said that Chesters future is intrinsically linked with its past and we must obviously protect the heritage that brings so many visitors to our city and borough and boosts the economy of both.