CEMETERY SAFETY ALERT
Wednesday, May 25, 2011 —With the Memorial Day weekend upon us, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart is encouraging the public to be cautious and at all times aware of their surroundings when visiting area cemeteries
Sheriff Dart is joining with Catholic Cemeteries to increase public awareness of crimes that can sometimes occur while visiting gravesites. Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend kicks off the cemetery visitation season, and along with it, increased crime. Over the course of just six weeks last summer, Catholic Cemeteries’ locations had fifteen thefts from vehicles that occurred while visitors were paying their respects at gravesites. The thefts involved cars that were left unlocked with valuables exposed, as well as “smash and grabs”.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is urging cemetery visitors to practice the same general safety measures they would in any other public area, such as at a park or train stop. The following safety tips are suggested for those who plan to visit a cemetery this holiday weekend and beyond:
- Lock your car and take your keys with you;
- Take your purse or wallet with you to the gravesite or lock them in the trunk of the car;
- Do not leave items in plain view inside your car;
- Keep your cell phone with you in case of an emergency;
- If you see someone suspicious, report it to cemetery staff and/or police;
- Travel with others while visiting a gravesite, particularly if you are elderly.
“This safety message is not meant to discourage visitation and remembrance,” Sheriff Dart said. “Our goal is to remind the public that sacred grounds are not treated by everyone as sacred and to urge precautions accordingly.”
In addition to vehicle thefts, this year the Cook County Sheriff’s Office has investigated a growing number of metal thefts from cemeteries, including stolen sewer covers, bronze vases and bronze memorials. Many thieves view cemeteries as targets for crimes of opportunity, and public awareness is the key to thwarting criminal activity.