The southwest of England has seen an increased spate of thefts of church bells and equipment, irrigation pipes from schools and other scrap metal from business and domestic property in recent weeks.
The authorities say that the crime wave is due to the increase in world scrap metal prices, which mean that thieves can get top prices - provided they are able to use dealers who do not ask too many questions or 'fences' (those who seek to sell on stolen property).
Other parts of the Britain have also been effected, but the problem seems especially marked in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset.
Police in the southwest have launched an initiative to seek to catch the thieves and those working with them, called Operation Galvin.
They are also encouraging churches, businesses and home owners to take extra precautions.
Neighbourhood Watch schemes - local voluntary networks of residents - have been alerted to the situation.