“There’s nothing lower than someone who steals from the dead,” said Landis Price, the general manager of the Ridge Crest Memorial Park in Batesburg-Leesville.
He called police Tuesday after a family warned him that someone had stolen the bronze flower vase at their loved one’s grave site and they noticed that there were “‘a lot of vases missing out here,’” he said.
The first Price heard of the problem was Saturday, when a gentleman who visits his wife’s crypt at the cemetery nearly every day reported a missing vase at the mausoleum.
In all, 68 bronze vases were stolen from the cemetery, authorities said.
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Price speculates someone hopes to turn a quick buck selling them to a non-reputable salvage company. Bronze is alloy of copper (about 88 percent) and tin (22 percent). The rising value of copper has led to a rash of copper thefts in recent months.
When several bronze sculptures were stolen from the Maxcy-Gregg Park in Columbia in January, City Manager Steve Gantt said people steal bronze for the copper but what they don’t realize is that separating the copper from the tin is very difficult.
The criminals were smart enough to try to cover their tracks, Price said. They took vases but left the flowers sticking up out of the hole in the ground where the vase would be. From a distance, nothing would look much different.
Even though the vases cost anywhere from $300-$500 each, they aren’t locked in place.
“A tiny chain holds them in place, but that will only stop an honest person,” Price said.
As soon as he has made an inventory, Price said, he’ll have to start calling families touched by the theft. He said his insurance company told him that the owner of each individual grave site who was victimized should check their homeowner’s insurance to see if replacement of the vase is covered.
In the meantime, Price said he is looking into increasing the lighting at the cemetery to discourage future thefts.