Arson squad encourage “soft stripping” in pubs

By on 19/08/2010 in News

Concerned by the rise in empty pub properties, a dedicated council “arson squad” is encouraging the licensed trade to “soft strip” pubs before scrap metal thieves do it for them.

The Environmental Crime Unit at Birmingham City Council has joined forces with the Fire Service and West Midlands Police to create a 'building watch' scheme. The scheme aims to track and secure any empty premises in the city, protecting them from thieves and arson.

metal beer kegs inside a disused pub

metal beer kegs inside a disused pub

The decline in the pub trade has led to a rise in properties being vacated, stripped of furnishings and secured with metal permascreens.

Soft stripping involves removing any metal fixtures and fittings that may be of value to the booming scrap metal market, such as empty beer kegs, compressors or cables.

The decline of the property market has led to may owners opting to 'land bank' properties, possibly for many years, just like leaving cash savings in the bank.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the longer a property stands idle, the more likely it is to become dilapidated and attract anti-social behaviour such as theft, vandalism and arson, as well as posing an eyesore to neighbours.

sign indicating that a premises has been 'soft stripped'

sign indicating that a premises has been 'soft stripped'

Property owners have a legal responsibility under the Occupiers Liability Act to both protect anybody on the premises from harm and to secure the premises against unlawful entry.

Councillor Neil Eustace, Chair of the Public Protection Committee at Birmingham City Council, said:

“This issue is not going to go away. Over the past year, we have seen an increase in the number of referrals from the police and the fire service regarding empty properties.

“It may sound strange that we are effectively asking pubs to burgle themselves, but it is a financially sensible move, given the damage that can be caused by determined thieves.

“Owners' insurance policy can also be affected if they fail to properly secure the premises.”

Phil James, Birmingham Fire Reduction Partnership Manager, said:

“We have funded this highly successful initiative through Safer Birmingham Partnership, because tackling fires in empty buildings is not only very costly for the fire service, it also means that we sometimes have to send our fire fighters into buildings that can turn out to be structurally unsafe, because of the damage caused by criminals who break in and rip the buildings apart.”


For more information please contact Hayley Meachin on 0121 303 1271/ 07920 750007

Note to Editors

Safer Birmingham Partnership is a multi-agency partnership that brings together agencies including Birmingham City Council, West Midlands Police, West Midlands Fire Service, Third Sector Assembly, West Midlands Probation Services and Birmingham Primary Care Trusts, who are all working together for a safer city.

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  1. Kavan Hawker says:

    This is an excellent idea. For many years pubs when they close down have the majority of the fittings and ex kegs left inside, in plain this causes certain people to think that they are an adventure playground, because there may be things of certain interest left for them in these pubs.

    Take out all the fittings and you’re telling these people that there is nothing there for them, hence reducing the number of break ins, thefts and arson attacks, not to mention the horrendous eyesores left when certain people start to vandalise these pubs.