Lincolnshire Police are investigating more than 40 offences into the theft of lead from churches including Billingborough
Following a spate of lead thefts at churches, including Billingborough, police are now investigating numerous offences with a dedicated team.
Four men, aged 24, 28, 30 and 43, have been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal.
They have been released on bail while investigations continue.
Chief inspector Phil Vickers said: "It is believed that in total there were more than 40 offences committed in Lincolnshire where lead was stolen from rural churches during 2019, and though at this stage 16 of those are believed to be linked, it is anticipated that number may increase as the investigation progresses.
"During 2019 Lincolnshire Police worked with the Lincoln Diocese and individual church premises across the county, providing site-specific advice to 53 premises as well as broader guidance to prevent offending, in addition to several hundred site visits that had been carried out previously.
"The impact of these offences goes well beyond the significant financial cost.
"Communities have felt a great sense of loss at the damage caused to their heritage, and increased vulnerability due to the rural nature of many of the premises .
"We know that in addition to the loss of lead, extensive damage has been caused to the fabric of the buildings by water ingress during bad weather.
"We continue to work with rural communities to prevent offending, and encourage anyone seeing or hearing anything suspicious at heritage sites, particularly at night but also during the day, to contact police immediately."