Families whose loved ones’ grave-sites were desecrated by thieves this month will have the stolen bronze flower vases replaced at no cost.
Officials at Victory Memorial Park say they are also boosting security on the 36-acre South Surrey grounds in response to the thefts, and are appealing to scrap-metal dealers to be on the lookout for anyone trying to sell the containers.
“Unfortunately, the theft of bronze from cemeteries is an issue really right across North America,” Bob Linklater, the park’s general manager, said Tuesday.
“As the price of metal continues to rise, unfortunately so does the theft of those type of metals.”
Peace Arch News reported Tuesday that police are investigating the theft of nearly 50 of the vases, 17 of which were noted to have disappeared overnight Aug. 21.
Linklater and assistant manager Don Calder were first alerted to the problem about three weeks ago, after grounds crews started noticing vases missing from random grave markers. The majority of those targeted are in an area of the park, at 14831 28 Ave., that is more forested than the rest.
“As of (Tuesday), there were 46 missing,” Calder said Wednesday.
He noted most have been taken “in the cover of darkness,” with culprits even going so far as to take vases currently in use, casting aside flowers that families have placed to honour their loved ones.
“Families look at this as something very personal. Someone that they dearly loved died. This monument, this marker, represents that person, and now someone comes along and steals part of that,” Calder said.
He suspects whoever is behind the thefts arrived on foot, taking from random sites in the belief the crime might go unnoticed.
He and Linklater said it would be challenging to cart away more than a few of the vases at a time. Standing about 10 inches tall, each weighs four to five pounds.
“They’re heavy, they’re not something you’re going to carry in your pocket or in your jacket,” Linklater said.
The retail value of the stolen vases is estimated “in the tens of thousands of dollars.”
At press time Wednesday, Allen Seto, yard manager of ABC Recycling, told Peace Arch News that a woman brought an unusual number of the “quite valuable” vases to his Surrey site last week – enough to prompt him to report the cache to police.
“Company policy is if we suspect any stolen product it’s got to be reported,” Seto said.
He doesn’t know if the vases are the same ones taken from Victory Memorial but described the fact that they could have been stolen from grave markers anywhere as “somewhat appalling.”
“It’s crossing a line, and that’s a pretty thick line,” Seto said.
As of PAN’s press deadline, no arrests had been made.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts could not be reached to comment on the issue, regarding the effectiveness of provincial and city laws that were enacted as recently as mid-2012 to help curb the problem.
Anyone with information that could help identify those behind the thefts is asked to call Surrey RCMP at 604-599-0502.