’Museums need to be aware of the risk when it comes to smash and grab attacks,’ says customer segment director

Heritage organisations have been urged to check their risk management strategies as cost of living pressures could drive more smash and grab attacks in the new year.

Speaking to Insurance Times, Faith Kitchen, customer segment director at Ecclesiastical Insurance, said such firms needed to be aware of the crime and that now was a “good window of opportunity” to look at how they can best protect irreplaceable items.

A smash and grab raid is carried out at speed, using extreme force to break through physical barriers to gain access to a property.

In instances involving heritage organisations, such as museums, theatres and galleries, burglaries are often pre-planned to target high value items.

Kitchen warned that such firms were “an attractive target for these crimes”.

“We have been raising the awareness [of these attacks] because of the speed it is carried out and the extreme force the thieves use to overcome physical barriers to gain access,” she said.

“Museums need to be aware of the risk when it comes to smash and grab attacks as they have been increasing over the past few years.

“Now is a good window of opportunity for [heritage organisations] to consider their risk management strategies and look how they can best protect the irreplaceable items.”


This came after the cost of living crisis was listed as the top concern for UK heritage organisations in Ecclesiastical’s Heritage Risk Barometer 2022.

Published earlier this year (23 January 2023), the barometer explored the top risks and key concerns faced in the heritage sector – these concerns included attracting local visitors, the recruitment crisis, responding to climate change and crime.

Kitchen revealed that another concern for these firms had been protecting artworks and artefacts from damage.

“We have seen protests against some iconic artworks, which [can] cause significant damage,” she said.

For example, climate change protesters from Just Stop Oil threw two cans of Heinz tomato soup over Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers painting at London’s National Gallery last year (14 October 2022).

Kitchen explained that organisations can protect themselves by implementing measures such as inspecting bags, working behind glazed panels and installing proximity alarm systems.

She added that staff can be trained to recognise and report unusual visitor behaviours.