Cemetery markers prove target for bronze thieves

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Gravesites at Hartselle Memory Gardens are being robbed of their bronze flower vases at an alarming rate because they can be taken easily and converted into quick cash by selling them to a scrap dealer, according to owner Jim Brogden.
"We've had 40 to 50 of the vases stolen already this year," Brogden said. "But we're not alone. Burningtree and Roselawn are experiencing the same problem."
The vases are expensive. It costs about $160 to replace one. That's about twice what they cost a couple of years ago before the price of brass and copper skyrocketed.
The vases weigh about seven pounds each and are attached to the grave marker by a lightweight chain and can be removed with little difficulty. It's not unusual for family members to take them away for the purpose of replacing the flowers and bring them back two or three days later.
"They'll (thieves) stop here late at night, grab four or five of the vases, and sell them to a scrap dealer for about a dollar a pound. He'll turn around and melt down the scrap and sell it for two or three dollars a pound." Brogden said. "We may not even realize they've been stolen until they're reported missing by family members."
"It's heartbreaking to a family member of a loved one when they discover that the vase and the flowers they placed in it are missing," said Chris Peterson who works at the cemetery. "To them the loss is much greater than what it costs to replace them."
Brogden said he's at wit's end trying to figure out a way to stop the thefts.
"Law enforcement officers are aware that we're a target of thieves," he said. "I know they're patrolling us but so far they've not been able to catch anyone red-handed. "These vases are not usually seen anywhere except in perpetual care cemeteries. It would help if scrap dealers refused to buy them."
Hartselle Police Chief Ron Puckett said the cemetery is in the city's police jurisdiction.
"I'm aware they've had some flower vases stolen but I didn't realize it had gotten this bad," he said. "We'll work with them anyway we can to bring the thefts to a halt."

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