Cemetery thieves make off with 85 bronze vases

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Dozens of Lancaster County families are upset and angry after learning thieves hit their loved ones’ graves.

Manheim Township police say someone stole 85 cast bronze vases, worth $17,000, from grave markers in Conestoga Memorial Park in Lancaster Township. Investigators believe the thefts happened sometime between Friday and Monday.

Most all of the missing vases were in one part of the cemetery called La Pieta.

“It’s like grave robbing,” said Steven Brennan, a cemetery employee. “I mean, they’re not actually robbing the graves, but in a way they are. They’re stealing from the families who put a memorial down.”

Robert Bucks of Elizabethtown came to the cemetery Wednesday to visit his wife’s grave and make sure it wasn’t raided by thieves.

“I just came down to see if her vase was stolen,” he said. “It has not been fortunately.”

Bucks was one of a number of people who came to the cemetery to check on their loved one’s graves. Some even removed the vases themselves to prevent them from being stolen.

“It’s tough, you know, we don’t want to close the cemetery,” Brennan said. “You don’t want to put a gate up, you don’t want to put fences up. We want the cemetery to be open sunrise to sunset 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

Brennan said this is the largest theft the cemetery has ever seen, but that similar crimes are reported all over the country.

“It’s a widespread issue. It’s a national issue, people were stealing them for scrap,” he said. “You hear about old houses being stripped of copper and everybody’s going after the raw material because it’s so expensive, but cemeteries have been hit for years now.”

Cemetery staff and police are hoping to come up with ways to better protect the graves and give families of loved ones lost, more peace of mind.

“My wife and I were married 43 years, and she passed away and I will always remember her and I will always come back here,” Bucks said.

Manheim Township police are investigating these thefts. If you have any information or come across someone trying to steal these vases, you’re urged to give the department a call at (717) 569-6401.