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Cemetery Vandalism

A Look Into the Criminal Mind

Cemetery vandalism is an interesting part of the study of criminal acts. Because cemetery vandalism has, perhaps, the most unique of motives, it can lead to some intriguing insight into what causes all types of crime. Here are a few examples of what we can learn from some recent acts of cemetery vandalism.

A small cemetery in Oregon suffered a rash of cemetery vandalism in early 2006. The culprits, according to local law enforcement officials were probably, simply, bored teenagers, students at high school near the cemetery. In this case of cemetery vandalism, the vandals entered dark, mostly unwatched portions of the cemetery after dark and held what appears to have been wild parties, complete with beer cans, fast food and even condoms. In the midst of the parties, much of the cemetery’s landscaping came undone, and the hundred year old, often fragile, headstones and statues came tumbling down. Much of the damage was irreparable.

It is a sad fact of our modern age that cemeteries are constantly vandalizedOfficials say this case of cemetery vandalism went undetected for a number of months because the portion of the cemetery that was vandalized was very old and very rarely visited. The vandalism occurred, not out of spite or hatred, experts say, but rather simply because it could. Once increased security measures were in place – the local police began conducting nightly patrols of the cemetery, groups of concerned local citizens began visiting graves of their descendants more often, and security cameras were installed – the cemetery vandalism stopped. Despite lucrative rewards offered for information leading to the arrest of those who were responsible for the cemetery vandalism, no one has ever been charged. But, now that the acts are well known among the town and strong security measures have been put into place, the criminals seems to have lost their motive for this interesting crime. A person or group who was bent on cemetery vandalism at all costs – because, say, they were motivated out of fear or hatred -- certainly would not have let a few extra patrols stop them from continuing their mischief.

In another recent case a 34 year old woman and her family seems to have been afflicted with same curious motive. She chose to commit a number of acts of cemetery vandalism – and even encouraged her 5-year-old daughter to do the same – simply because she could get away with it. This case of cemetery vandalism began innocently enough when, on a trip to visit relative’s graves, the woman’s daughter accidentally knocked over a statue that had been placed near one of the other graves in the cemetery. Never realizing before that cemetery statues can be so easily knocked over and removed, this gave the woman the idea to commit hundreds of other acts of cemetery vandalism over the next few months. The woman, her husband and her daughter made cemetery vandalism a practice all across the state. On pleasant afternoons, they would stroll through the many unguarded, remote, cemeteries near their home, and steal headstones, statues and other memorial pieces. Police later found hundreds on display in the family’s home. In the end, just as with the vandalism mentioned above, it seems that the family’s motive in this case was simply to conduct an act of vandalism from which they could, fairly easily, get away. Locked gates, cameras, lights and security patrols, then, appear to be the best methods of stopping cemetery vandalism: in short, cemeteries should work a little extra to make cemetery vandalism a less simple thing to do.

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