THORNTON - Police call it an ongoing problem throughout the Denver metro area. Thieves have been stealing brass vases from grave sites to sell at recycling plants for cash. The latest case happened Tuesday at the Olinger Highland Cemetery.
Holly Johnson said over the last 15 years, she has had to bury several family members at the cemetery. In 2002, she was faced with the unbearable pain of having to bury her two daughters after they were born 22 months premature.
"The hardest part for me was leaving the hospital without them. They were a pound apiece. It was heartbreaking," Johnson said.
Johnson said she saved her money for nearly two years to be able to afford a headstone for her twins and a brass vase to put flowers in. On Tuesday afternoon, Johnson went to the cemetery to decorate her twin's grave site for Easter, when she noticed the brass vase she paid hundreds of dollars for was gone.
"Obviously you can see that they took their vase, and so now I can't put flowers in there. It's just heartbreaking. The vase at my grandparents site was stolen, too," Johnson said.
Officer Matt Barnes with the Thornton Police Department said thieves have been targeting metal vases at cemeteries for years. So far in 2015, Barnes said his officers have been investigating nine cases at Olinger Highland Cemetery.
"The unfortunate thing is these cemeteries are pretty wide open and public, and people come and go. They're not monitored real closely," Barnes said.
Thornton police have increased patrol in and around the cemetery, and they've also made some arrests. But sadly, grieving family members like Holly Johnson are left to cope with yet another loss.
"I would like to know who did this? And how would you like it if somebody did it to one of your family members? I don't have the money to buy another one," Johnson said.
A spokesperson for Olinger Highlands Cemetery said it's aware of the thefts. They're working with families to replace the vases at a reduced cost.
The company released the following statement;
It saddens us that thieves are preying on cemeteries and gravesites to commit these crimes. Theft of any kind is unacceptable, but thefts on cemetery property are particularly despicable. Unfortunately, the theft of bronze from cemeteries is an issue at cemeteries across North America. We hope that area scrap metal dealers will continue to be watchful for people selling bronze vases from cemetery property and to contact local law enforcement to report any suspicious activity.
We keep our beautiful cemetery open to the public so that the families we serve may visit their loved ones whenever they choose to. We do take the safety and security of our park very seriously, however, cemeteries, by their nature, are open to the public. When we do report missing vases to the local police department, they usually increase patrols of the area.
We work with affected families to replace their stolen property at a reduced cost. We encourage any family with property at our park to contact us if they have any concerns.
(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)