A NEW scheme has been launched to help protect York’s historical assets from criminals.

York Heritage Watch is a partnership between North Yorkshire Police and a number of local and national organisations including Historic England, The National Trust, The Church Conservation Trust, York Civic Trust, York Museums Trust, York Minster and The Diocese of York.

The new initiative, which will be chaired by former senior police officer John Minary, was officially unveiled at an event in the Yorkshire Museum on Tuesday, and was partly set up after a burglar’s tool kit was found within the grounds of the Stained Glass Centre at St Martin-cum-Gregory Church in Micklegate.

David Fraser, from York Civic Trust, said in the Yorkshire region, £2.1bn is spent on heritage in a year, with 29,000 jobs attached to it, and crime against it was a serious business.

He said: "Heritage is valuable and contributes a lot to our society, bonds our community together, creates value in a lot of different roles.

"These days there will never be enough trained police officers on the ground and quite rightly they rely on the community to be their eyes, ears, voices and helpers. It's not just about police on the ground, it's also everyone in the community acting together to stop heritage crime."

Mr Minary,director of Trace-In-Metal which improves security in the arts and museums sector, and said: “I’m extremely grateful to all stakeholders who have supported the scheme to date and for allowing us the opportunity to launch the heritage watch partnership.

“York is a magnet for visitors from around the world to keen to absorb the city’s rich heritage, and it is the heritage assets that this group is aiming to protect.”

Mr Minary said heritage crime was a problem in urban and rural areas, and metal theft was an increasing risk for heritage sites.

He said: “York Heritage Watch will provide a hands on platform for the local heritage community to come together to help each other, talk to each other, share news and best practice and improve safety for their sites, their visitors and their hard working staff.”

Inspector Jon Grainge, from North Yorkshire Police, said: "People should still report heritage crime to 101, and the feedback will go to the group.

"Training is going out to the control room, but we need the public to identify it as heritage crime too. It's a database, so we need to be able to search it better. We don't know how big our problem is until we get that filter."