What is heritage crime?

Heritage crime is any offence which harms the value of heritage assets and their settings.

Some heritage assets are protected by specific legislation to prevent harm caused by damage or unlicensed alteration. However, other crimes such as theft, criminal damage, arson and anti-social behaviour offences can also damage and harm heritage assets and interfere with the public's enjoyment and knowledge of their heritage.

Heritage assets are sites which are considered to have a value to the heritage our country and include:

  • Listed buildings
  • Scheduled monuments
  • World Heritage Sites
  • Protected marine wreck sites
  • Conservation areas
  • Registered parks and gardens
  • Registered battlefields
  • Protected military remains of aircraft and vessels of historic interest
  • Undesignated but acknowledged heritage buildings and sites.

What is being done about heritage crime?

Historic England, together with the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and a range of partners across the heritage and law enforcement sectors, including Neighbourhood Watch, have set up the Heritage Crime Programme.

These three main organisations, have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) which sets out their responsibilities for tackling heritage crime. growing number of other organisations, such as local and national park authorities have also joined this coordinated effort. The aim of this MOU is to deliver a programme of preventative measures and enforcement activities that are realistic, efficient and deliverable.

Neighbourhood Policing has been established to tackle local crime and anti-social behaviour and also provides a useful model for tackling heritage crime. This is often best done at a local level through Community Safety Partnerships.

Nearly every police service has a liaison officer who will coordinate issues related to heritage crime in their area.

Historic England has also developed an online training scenario for Police Officers, Police Community Support Officers and Specialist Constables in an urban setting.

Working with partners

As part of an initiative to tackle heritage crime in England the Heritage Crime MOU was signed by the following organisations:  

  1. Cambridgeshire County Council
  2. Canterbury City Council
  3. Cheshire East Council
  4. Cheshire West & Chester Council
  5. Chichester District Council
  6. Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council 
  7. Dover District Council
  8. Essex County Council
  9. Hertfordshire County Council
  10. Ipswich Borough Council
  11. Lambeth London Borough Council
  12. Maldon District Council
  13. Northamptonshire County Council
  14. Norfolk County Council
  15. Peak District National Park Authority 
  16. Sheffield City Council 
  17. Suffolk County Council 
  18. Swindon Borough Council
  19. Wandsworth London Borough Council
  20. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

Contact can be made with Mark Harrison, mark.harrison@historicengland.org.uk, Historic England's Head of Heritage Crime Strategy


Reporting a heritage crime

Contact the police

Call 999 in an emergency when:

  • A crime's in progress;
  • Someone is suspected of a crime is nearby;
  • There is danger to life or property;
  • Violence is being used or threatened.

Call 101 to report crime and other concerns that do not require an emergency response, such as:

  • When property has been stolen or damaged and the suspect is no longer at the scene;
  • If you suspect unlawful metal detecting is happening in your neighbourhood;
  • To give the police information about crime or anti-social behaviour in your area.

101 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Report online

Go to your local Police website and fill in a report.  This can be used where you think a crime has been committed, but it was in the past and does not require an immediate reaction.

Next steps


To pass on information about criminal activity and remain anonymous, contact Crimestoppers (www.Crimestoppers-uk.org) on 0800 555 111, or by visiting their online information giving page. You will never have to give a formal statement, talk to police or be a witness in court, and you could receive a reward of up to £1,000 if the information you provide leads to the arrest and charge of at least one person. The Crimestoppers telephone line is also 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Heritage Watch schemes

Heritage Watch schemes enable the public to report and share information on crime, suspicious behaviour and damage they observe at heritage assets in their community or while out and about. Historic England is working with constabularies around the country to introduce more Heritage Watch schemes. There are currently Heritage Watch schemes in Essex, Cheshire, Hertfordshire, Kent and City of York.