Prime minister David Cameron is being urged to clampdown on the scrap-metal industry after thieves stole a bronze sculpture from an historic park.
The London Borough of Southwark wrote to Cameron after Barbara Hepworth's Two Forms (Divided Circles) vanished from Dulwich Park shortly before Christmas. It was insured for £500,000 but police think it was stolen for scrap because of spiralling metal costs.
"We want Cameron to speed up reforms to the scrap-metal industry to combat the growing epidemic of theft across the UK," said the local authority.
Soaring prices for copper, lead and bronze have prompted thieves to target everything from railway tracks to phone lines. Southwark and the Hepworth Estate have offered a £5,000 reward for information on the sculpture.
"We are writing to request urgent action to curb the dramatic increase in metal theft," said the council's letter. "Our borough's artistic and local heritage has been particularly hard hit.
"We believe there should be much tougher regulation of the industry including a ban on cash payments to sellers and a requirement that dealers keep a log of sellers' details. We are all poorer for the loss of public art and hope you will act soon."
The council said it was carrying out a risk assessment of the 165 pieces of public art and sculpture in the borough. New anti-theft measures could include CCTV or temporary storage until artworks can be made safe.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "We have received Southwark's letter and will respond in due course."
Anyone with information on the theft can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
PARK FRIENDS' VIEW
"The thieves must have had a major industrial saw to hack off the only major sculpture in the park. Its theft suggests you can't have great works of art in parks. CCTV isn't much good for smash-and-grabs by people in hoodies while alarm sensors would be triggered all the time by wildlife."
Trevor Moore, chairman, Dulwich Park Friends