News in focus: Are ‘ridiculous’ Forest Gate brick thefts the new criminal fad?

Will Fisher, where his garden wall once stood in Capel Road

Will Fisher, where his garden wall once stood in Capel Road - Credit: Archant

With London stock bricks harder to come across, some have taken to illegal means to get their hands on the valuable objects. Mark Shales looks at the impact on victims

Examples of London bricks

Examples of London bricks - Credit: Archant

Jewellery, cars, money.

Some things will always be targets for thieves.

But a new spate of thefts affecting Forest Gate has seen the disappearance of treasures much less glamorous. Bricks.

Believe it or not, London stock bricks are the latest hot properties in the petty criminal underworld, with some going for up to £3 a brick.

Brick have also been reported stolen in Goodmayes (Pic: Ajay Nair)

Brick have also been reported stolen in Goodmayes (Pic: Ajay Nair) - Credit: Archant

Not a massive amount on its own, but when whole walls of about 500 bricks are disappearing from homes across the borough, the stealing can become big business.

Printer Will Fisher, 39, woke up one morning last month to find half of his garden wall in Capel Road had disappeared during the night.

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The following day his neighbour had to chase someone off from his garden, but a week later the dad-of-two awoke to find the whole wall had been stolen.

“I was disgusted to think that someone could be so cheeky and come into your garden to do something like that,” he said.

Brick have also been reported stolen in Goodmayes (Pic: Ajay Nair)

Brick have also been reported stolen in Goodmayes (Pic: Ajay Nair) - Credit: Archant

“We were shocked that somebody would go to those lengths for what we assumed was such small game.

“But then I suppose it’s not such small game. Some people are quite desperate out there.”

Although the objects are all covered by Mr Fisher’s insurance, the price of the excess and the hassle of the re-building has put him off ever choosing the classic bricks again.

“We haven’t sorted it yet, things are a bit tight so we’re having to wait a little bit because the insurance excess alone is putting us back a bit,” he added.

“We’re not going to replace the bricks, we’re going to get some cheaper ones that are less sought after – we don’t want to go through all that again.

“It’s quite sad that it’s come to [changing the bricks] because of the risks of them getting stolen again – I didn’t think we’d ever have to worry about something like that.

“It’s a shame because the bricks have been there since the house was built, the turn of the 20th century, and we’re having to switch them just because someone might steal them – it’s pretty ridiculous.”

Nobody has been charged in connection with the theft in Capel Road but enquiries are continuing.

Billy Fenech, 20, director of demolition at BGF Demolition, in Sebert Road, Forest Gate, believes clay bricks became the latest criminal fad following a crackdown on scrap metal theft.

Although he only deals with bricks from reputable sources, he admits the rise in thefts, which have also been reported in Redbridge, threaten to tarnish legitimate traders with the same brush.

“You can’t get those bricks anymore, there’s no clay, so people steal them for their value,” he said.

“We’ve had people come to us but we won’t entertain the idea, we only buy from reputable firms.

“The problem really started when they began clamping down on scrap metal – we’re still allowed to pay cash-in-hand for bricks.

“Bricks aren’t like scrap metal where you can prove this came from the railway or whatever – they don’t have any special markings so you can’t prove where they came from.

“It’s getting pretty bad. People come in and say ‘I’ve had my bricks stolen, has anyone brought some bricks in?’

“People have their bricks stolen and they see us with lots of bricks – it gives us all a bad name.”

Surveyor Michael Athienitis, 28, of PA Finlay and Co., in Rowse Close, Stratford, insists rising brick prices have made them a target for thieves.

“Those kind of bricks cost about £1,500 for a pack of 1,000 but very often half we can’t use half a pack, so they’re about £3 a brick,” he explained

“A standard brick wall would need 120 bricks per square metre so that’s £360 per sq m for bricks only.

“If you have a garden wall that’s 4sq m – that’s nearly £1,500 in total.

“The prices have been going up and up and up recently, partly as a result of less old buildings being demolished, meaning there is less of these type of second-hand bricks in circulation.

“You could pull someone’s wall down and there’s £1,000 worth of bricks there.

“It’s opportunistic criminals, they’re not stupid

“It’s easier than breaking into a house.”

Have you been affected? Email or call 020 8477 3824.