Thieves have stolen a 153-year-old tower bell from the St John’s Anglican Church in Petit Bourg, in what is believed to be an attempt to sell it for scrap iron.
Originally donated from a foundry in England, the bell was reported stolen by parishioners from the church on July 4.
The bell, which is engraved with the names of the donors, was recently cleaned as part of the church’s 172nd anniversary, which is being celebrated this year.
It is believed that the bell was stolen last month, but parishioners only recently noticed that it was missing. The bell is said to have been used only for special occasions.
Previously, thieves also stole several manhole covers from around the churchyard.
“From the evidence of longstanding parishioners, it is too heavy for one person to lift, so that adds to the kind of consideration that might have applied in having it removed,” Bishop Claude Berkley told i95.5 FM in an interview yesterday.
Berkley said the loss of the bell has taken an emotional toll on the parishioners.
“For a generation or more, perhaps going out now, the bell would have had that kind of connectedness to the community and it is really a very, very hurtful undertaking to have the bell removed and stolen,” he said, condemning the theft.
The issue of the theft of the bell was also highlighted during a Trinidad & Tobago Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) press conference on Thursday.
TTSIDA president Allan Ferguson apologised for the situation.
“It is very hurtful to hear these things that they have gone with a bell from church. Without due, I want to really apologise because it does not matter if someone comes off the street and they are not a scrap guy, and they just decided to steal whatever it might be and bring it to other yards,” Ferguson said.
While thieves might not bring the stolen items to a TTSIDA member’s yard, Ferguson said it still taints the industry.
He acknowledged that many people and companies lost property because of underhand work in the industry but maintained only a few yards accept stolen material.
Ferguson explained that scavenging and purchasing scrap metal was an industry in which anyone could come off the streets to make a dollar. He apologised to the country and asked citizens to understand that the industry employs many people who cannot find work elsewhere. It includes people with criminal records who cannot get jobs elsewhere or are not qualified for various positions, he said. However, he said this means that anyone can steal property and legitimate dealers get the blame.
“We allow everyone because we are of the view that everyone deserves a second chance. That is why we give them work in this industry.”
To remedy the issues, TTSIDA members met on Wednesday to decide on the proposals it will submit to the Government for regularising the industry.
Ferguson said they also decided to implement rules for “van men” and “scrap yards” to ensure theft of scrap metal is a thing of the past using a data system. He said the TTSIDA will work over the weekend on its proposals to submit to the Government.
“I cannot give you the assurance that it will go 100 per cent, but I can tell you what we decided to do to make sure this theft stops, is to do something serious with this industry to make it difficult for people to steal things and bring to our yards.”
He said there was no date for meeting with the Government but heard it would be next week.
Former TTSIDA secretary Kenny Plaza came out of retirement to assist in helping to regulate the industry. Plaza said they had extensive dialogue with the past government regarding regulations and recycling. However, he said there was not much progress after that. He said the industry was not just about employing the people who hustle on the streets. While many see them as nuisances in the industry, some are legitimate. He said with so much refuse entering watercourses, the TTSIDE was here to show the importance of recycling and what the scrap iron dealers can do for the ecosystem.