Their what? Theft of metal to be sold for scrap. Metal is disappearing from cemeteries nationwide at an alarming rate. I see it personally almost every day. You might think this is two-bit stuff, but if I told you that you could just pry the memorial bronze plate off the monument above and a scrap dealer would give you twenty dollars for it, you’d quickly realize why thieves see cemeteries as such easy targets.
“Grave robbers, a curse of burial grounds for centuries, are back for new valuables: metal ornaments that can be melted down for quick cash as copper and other metal prices climb.”
Cemeteries' new problem: metal theft (USA Today)“… with copper currently selling for about $3.75 per 1 pound— close to historic highs of over $4 a pound in 2006 — thieves are carrying off brass and bronze items that can be melted down for the copper they contain. 'I don't know what could be more sacred than protecting our cemeteries,' said West Virginia state legislator Kevin Craig, who co-sponsored a law against scrap metal theft after a bronze door was stolen from a tomb at a cemetery in his district in 2006.”
|Vandalized grave markers, Philadelphia's Mt. Sinai Cemetery|
The problem is not uniquely American, by the way. Similar theft has been reported in England and Scotland (see links at end).
For Whom the Bell Tolls
|Mount Moriah Cemetery's bronze bell|
“A scrap metal processor, junk dealer or junk yard owner or operator shall immediately notify a municipal law enforcement authority in the municipality in which such scrap metal processor, junk dealer or junk yard is located of the name, if known, and motor vehicle license plate number, if available, of any person offering to sell a bronze statue, plaque, historical marker, cannon, cannon ball, bell, lamp, lighting fixture, lamp post, architectural artifact or similar item to such scrap metal processor, junk dealer or junk yard owner or operator.”
Granted there are all these news stories about how junk dealers are all of a sudden very careful about buying seemingly stolen merchandise. After all, there is a Pennsylvania State Law called the “Scrap Material Theft Prevention Act“ (read it here) which specifies that dealers are supposed to report anyone trying to sell such things as “historical markers, statue plaques, grave markers, funeral vases…” However, I will tell you that there are two makeshift, roadside scrap dealers that set up shop in South Philly a year or so ago who probably take anything, no questions asked. Or would they? I was curious. Would a fly-by-night metal "recycling" place care if you brought in stolen cemetery statuary? I decided to stop and ask. I said to the guy, "I have a few of these bronze statues about a foot high, maybe twenty pounds each. Would you take them?" The guy said "Sure - a dollar-fifty a pound."
|Bell behind office building at Philadelphia's Mount Moriah Cemetery|