Thieves have stripped lead from the roofs of family homes and churches causing extensive damage and heartache.
A family home in Brook Close, Swanmore and an empty house in nearby Reed Close, both part of the recently completed Linden Homes Scholars Grange development, were hit by thefts this week.
The brazen thieves struck in the early hours of Monday, taking lead from the top of porches.
The homeowner of the worst-affected house, who did not wish to be named, said they were shocked by the crime and appealed for people to come forward with information.
‘We are incredibly upset by this,’ she said. ‘It’s very distressing that something like this happened on a quiet estate so close to Christmas. They caused so much damage and it’s left us with an expensive bill to get the house watertight again.
‘Lead theft may seem like a petty crime but this gang are hitting family homes and they need to be stopped.’
This latest incident follows a spate of lead thefts in Titchfield last month.
Homes in West Street, Garstons, Bridge Street and the High Street had lead ripped from porches and there were reports of attempts made on other properties around the village.
Nick Girdler, chairman of the Titchfield Village Trust, said: ‘Quite how they do it without raising attention is beyond many of us, but do it they can.
‘I am once again amazed at how thick these thieves are. The current price for scrap lead is between 40p and £1 a kilo.
‘They’d be better off stealing sprouts!’
St Winfrid’s Church in Salisbury Road, Totton, was also left with a repair bill totalling thousands of pounds after thieves stripped its roof sometime between December 6 and December 13.
Nigel Prior, from Meon Valley Neighbourhood Watch, said that lead thefts have become a regular occurrence, with at least 25 incidents reported in the Meon Valley in the past two years.
He said: ‘It is totally unacceptable and criminal and we would, with the police, love to get these teams sentenced to time in prison.
‘The police and our members do their best to keep an eye out but it is difficult to tell when and where they will strike next.
‘Churches and other listed buildings get hit the most as listing these buildings only allows more lead as a replacement which inevitably tempts the thieves to return.
‘This requirement needs to change so they can be replaced with plastic. The other overriding factors are the tempting price of scrap metals along with governance of dealers.’
He added that the situation had been aggravated by a reduced police budget and cuts to grants to neighbourhood watch schemes.
A spokesperson from Linden Homes South said: ‘It’s disappointing that someone has decided to target some of the homes at Scholars Grange. We have spoken with the affected home owners who were already in discussions with their insurance company on next steps as, unfortunately, criminal activity such as this is not included within our warranties. They have also spoken with the police.
‘We are also in touch with our supplier to make arrangements for the lead stolen from the unoccupied former show home to be replaced.’
Anyone with information about the Swanmore thefts should call police on 101 quoting reference 44170488674, or 44170453140 for Titchfield.