AN historic school has become the latest building to be targeted by metal thieves. Two large lead roofing panels were stolen from Abbey College, in Abbey Road, Ramsey, between 5pm on Friday, September 21, and 10am on Monday, September 24. The thieves are believed to have got to the roof by climbing a fire escape and as well as stealing two panels, damaged a number of others. Part of the school is in a building listed with English Heritage which was completed in 1656. The theft is being investigated as part of Operation Saruman which was launched last week to tackle a rise in the number of metal thefts in Cambridgeshire. The operation will see officers taking a hard line on thieves who are costing the county an estimated half a million pounds every month. Pc Kevin Kelly, from Ramsey police station, said: "The panels are quite large and worth several hundred pounds and it would have required more than one person to remove them. "I am appealing to anyone who saw any suspicious behaviour in or around the school over the weekend to contact police. I would also ask scrap metal dealers to contact police if they are offered any metal similar to that stolen." Headteacher Wayne Birks said: "I'm very pleased with the co-operation we have received from Cambridgeshire Constabulary and hope members of the public will be able to assist in providing information which will lead to an arrest." Between September 1, 2005, and August 31, 2006, there were 700 metal thefts reported in the county. That figure rose to 1,200 for the same period 2006\/07. The metal targeted most frequently is lead, often on roofs, and over the same periods the number of thefts involving lead have risen from 60 to 380. Churches have been particularly badly hit, but other public buildings have also lead stripped from the exterior. In the Diocese of Ely alone, which includes Huntingdonshire, more than \u00A31million worth of damage has been caused to church buildings in a year and, on average, it has cost individual churches about \u00A350,000 to repair and replace material. DI Martin Brunning, said police were currently in the intelligence-gathering stage of the operation but were, and would be, arresting and charging offenders. He said: "This is not a victimless crime. It is costing churches, schools and other community organisations thousands of pounds to replace metal and repair the damage." INFORMATION: Anyone with information should contact Pc Kelly on 0845 456 4564, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.