It’s dead wrong: Ghoulish thieves are robbing local graves, stripping them of valuable bronze vases in order to sell them as scrap.
The number of larcenies has risen with the price of bronze over the last few years, and cemeteries across the country are reporting crypt theft. One Maryland graveyard lost 100 vases in a single September raid.
“We’ve seen a recent rash of thefts,” said Harry Appleby, vice president of field operations at the 65-acre Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, Queens.
Appleby said the crimes happen in spurts and that over the last 10 years more than $100,000 worth of vases — they each cost $175 and weigh 8 pounds — have been stolen. The cylindrical vases sit upside down in the hollowed-out section of a grave marker and can be removed and turned over in order to hold flowers.
To stop the most recent spate, which cemetery sleuths suspected was the work of a former employee with a drug problem, Appleby went to local scrap yards to ask if the ex-worker had been there. Bronze sells for about $1.30 a pound.
Two months ago, a dealer identified the man, who was arrested. The ex-worker, whom the cemetery wouldn’t name, was caught with an estimated $6,000 worth of vases, Appleby said.
Maple Grove, which dates to 1875, sells plastic vases to replace the pilfered pots.
At Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, the resting place of 347,000 veterans, some 80 metal vases have been pinched in the last year.
“It’s constant,” said cemetery director Tony Thomas.
Some of the older vases are engraved with the deceased’s name.
Sen. Charles Schumer cosponsored legislation in 2012 that places restrictions on scrap metal sales. The bill was never enacted and is expected to be reintroduced.