Cemeteries are fighting back when it comes to theft. The time leading up to Memorial Day seems to be the second busiest time – next to the days before Christmas.
People walk off with flowers, shrubs, flags, vigil lights and other items left on the graves of veterans by family and friends. It’s almost as busy as the weeks before Christmas, when small trees, lights and other holiday displays and memorials vanish from grave sites.
And the worst part – many of the thieves sell their goods back to cemetery visitors along the roadside, never mentioning that they’re getting second hand goods. Thieves can also sell the bronze flag holders to junkyards in exchange for cash.
While apparently cemeteries don’t keep track of the costs of stolen merchandise, we can assume it’s quite expensive.
Vigil lights cost about $75. The price of a bronze flag holder can reach about $60. Solar-powered crosses that illuminate grave sites go for about $30. Some floral arrangements run more than $100.
Some cemeteries are curbing theft by recommending that buyers sink part of the bronze holders in a coffee can of quick-set cement before placing it in the ground to anchor it. Others recommend writing their names in permannt marker on solar-powered crosses, which are becoming popular.
Aside from installing expensive surveilance systems – something most cemeteries can’t afford – there’s not much else that can help. A proposed Assembly bill is in the works in New Jersey that would include fines of between $1000 and $25,000, community service, and jail time for anyone caught stealing cemetery monuments and memorabilia.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Jack Conners, D-Burlington, Camden, was inspired by the acts of Adam Jensen. Jensen stole more than 700 bronze flag holders from 4 cemeteries in Burlington Township and sold them for scrap for about $.65 each. Conners is hoping it will raise public awareness about the problem and deter would-be thieves.