ESSEX Police has issued advice on how residents and business owners can deter thieves from stealing lead from rooftops.

The force has confirmed it has received 20 reports of lead thefts in Witham since April 1, with seven businesses and 13 residential properties targeted.

Braintree Police warned business and home owners throughout the district about the need to be vigilant last week when it revealed there had been a spate of thefts involving lead.

With people on high alert, Essex Police has offered urgent advice about how to make properties more secure and how to deter thieves.

A spokesman said: “Lead thefts are often not identified until days – sometimes as long as a month – after the thefts have happened.

“Where suspects are not seen and there are no forensic opportunities or CCTV available, this can make it difficult to identify those responsible.

“We urge residents to be vigilant and report anyone seen to be acting suspiciously.

“Making it harder for people to access your roof can help deter lead thieves.

“Our suggestions include using anti-climb paint, a non-lead alternative, a roof-top alarm and CCTV.

“Where possible, remove bins, ladders and other objects that would-be thieves could use to climb on to porches and roofs, and install security lighting.

“Also consider using a forensic marker suitable for roofs.”

Among the firms targeted in Witham by thieves is Bright and Sons Solicitors in Newland Street. The firm said the theft of lead from its roof had led to a leak in the client’s waiting area.

Anyone with information about any of the thefts is urged to contact Braintree police station on 101.