Planters stolen from cemetery

GREENFIELD — Thieves have swiped more than a dozen large metal planting urns from alongside graves at Park Cemetery in Greenfield, and police suspect the items intended to honor the departed are being sold for scrap.

Greenfield Police Department detectives say in recent weeks, cemetery staffers and families have reported the heavy metal planters are missing from near their headstones.

Police are baffled by the thieves’ ability to make off with the urns, undetected; the decorative additions sometimes weigh several hundred pounds, said Detective Lt. Randy Ratliff, the head of the department’s investigations unit.

The cemetery, 621 S. State St., does not have surveillance cameras.

Greenfield Detective Sgt. Ron Chittum, who is leading the investigation, said officers are not entirely sure when the thefts started. It seems the thieves started removing the planters from an older portion of the cemetery, where the gravesites are several decades old and seldom draw visitors. More recently, urns from newer sites have gone missing, Chittum said.

The first theft report came a month ago from a concerned family, said Street Commissioner Tyler Rankins, who oversees the cemetery. And as weather warmed and employees started their spring landscaping work, they started noticing more urns missing from the property, he said.

Now, cemetery officials believe as many as 19 might have been taken from the city’s burial ground, Rankins said.

Police have checked with several scrap yards in the city to see whether urns have been sold near Greenfield, but those calls have not produced any leads, Ratliff said.

The urns are commonly made of cast iron or stainless steel, Chittum said. In scrap yards, cast iron can be traded for about $100 per ton, while stainless steel is worth up to 25 cents per pound.

The cemetery is open seven days a week, but gates close near sunset to limit access after dark. Rankins said this, coupled with the size and weight of the metal pots, likely means someone is placing the urns in a truck during normal business hours; but their misconduct has so far gone unnoticed.

“It takes a special kind of person to steal from the dead, I think,” Rankins said. “That’s what’s so disturbing about this.”

If you have information

Decorative metal urns are being stolen from Park Cemetery. Police are asking cemetery patrons to report any suspicious activity. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police department at 317-477-4410.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.