LEAD thieves have begun targeting commercial buildings in Marlow High Street in what police say is an out of the blue spate of crimes.

Thames Valley Police said it had numerous reports of lead being stolen in the town centre.

While lead theft had become a common crime at one point around 2008 there has been a significant fall generally after a law change made it harder to sell to scrap dealers.

Inspector Ray Wilks said the reports - made last week - were unusual.

"We haven't seen much in the way of metal theft for quite some time in Marlow so it has happened out of the blue," he told the Marlow Free Press.

"People have noticed lead has been taken at different times so we can't be sure exactly over how many nights it's happened."

Most buildings have some form of lead roof tiles or flashing on or around the roof area. Insp Wilks does not believe the quantity of lead stolen in Marlow High Street has been significant at present, though this is yet to be confirmed.

He said the High Street and commercial properties appear to have been specifically targeted because of the lack of similar crimes near by.

"I'm not aware of any in neighbouring areas that I cover," he said.

"The change in the law with operations with metal dealers means there's a lot less than a couple of years ago."

One of the more high profile occurrences came in Cookham in 2008 when suspected lead thieves interrupted a parish council meeting, attended by the Free Press. A loud thudding prompted councillors to dash out to check the roof and police were called but nobody was caught by the attending officers.

Investigations have begun into the Marlow town centre crimes.

Insp Wilks said: "We have CCTV on the High Street so all of those lines of enquiry will be considered.

"There are ways of protecting property like this so get in touch with us if you want to find out more."

Police advised business owners and landlords to ensure gates are locked and the premises are secure to consider installing CCTV and security lighting and to carry out regular checks of roofs and gulleys.

If you saw or heard anything suspicious or may know some information to assist the police with their investigation call 101. If you want to provide information anonymously call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.