Stolen Vases – Modern Grave Robbers

Picture of a headstone where grave robbers have stolen the vase from top.

Have you ever gone to a cemetery and noticed that something was missing? Most people think that grave robbing is digging up a grave to take jewelry and money left with the deceased, but these days grave robbers have begun taking something much easier to get than items buried six feet under: bronze vases.

But why would people want to take them?

The most commonly understood reason for stealing cemetery vases is to sell them to scrap metal dealers for quick cash. Many cemetery vases are made of bronze and copper, valuable metals on the black market.

The people who steal these vases are drug addicts looking for a quick fix, or people so down on their luck that even robbing the dead is not below them. The thief, or thieves, will sometimes steal dozens of vases in a night, or even hundreds over a weekend. These vases can be sold to scrap metal yards for approximately $5-$15 a piece, which is a fraction of their original cost of $200 – $500 a piece.

But many cemeteries are fighting back against grave robbers and taking measures to prevent bronze vase theft, or at the very least to identify the vases if recovered.

Some cemeteries will etch the name of the cemetery and the name of the deceased onto the bottom of the vase so that it can be returned to its proper spot if recovered, and in some cases chains have been added to the vases that attach them to the headstone they belong with.

Bronze vase stolen from a grave site, leaving only a hole in the headstone.Certain cemeteries have gone as far as to hire security guards to patrol the grounds regularly, or have even questioned visitors to the cemetery regarding the theft.

While visiting a cemetery in Washington state earlier this year, I noticed a vehicle with a large “security” label parked near the mausoleum. When I asked, I was told by cemetery workers that this vehicle was parked there in response to recent theft and vandalism. This appeared to be strictly a visual deterrent as there were never actually any security guards around.

However, the most effective form of prevention has been simply utilizing vases that are made of materials that are less appealing to scrap metal dealers, and by extension, vase thieves.

You might be surprised at who else might have taken the vases home: the families. Some people have gone as far as to take home vases from the graves of their loved ones to prevent them from being stolen. And some people don’t buy vases, or want vases for their own graves because of their experiences with a stolen vase.

When a vase is stolen, it can feel like a part of your loved one is missing. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is to walk up to a loved one’s grave with flowers in hand, only to find that there’s no longer a vase to put them in.

Picture of headstone vase made with new materials to deter grave robbers from stealing and selling the vase.Many cemeteries will not pay to replace the stolen vase, as it is considered personal property, meaning the deceased who no longer have living family members may lose their vase forever.

It has always been a dream of mine to start a non-profit to help people in need buy headstones for their loved ones. After learning about these thefts, I am also determined to help families replace the vases lost to these modern grave robbers.

These vases were meant to put flowers in, to show respect for the person buried there, not to be melted down and sold for pennies on the dollar.

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26 Responses to Stolen Vases – Modern Grave Robbers

  1. Kevin Crowley says:

    I just stumbled on this blog while looking for a replacement cemetery vase. Unfortunately, I brought flowers to my mother on her birthday this week, and our vase was gone. The cemetery will not replace it, but offered to sell a new one for 215.00. I went back today and went through all of the vases that are hanging on the mausoleum slots, thinking it had to be at another families location. The vases are all engraved with name and location. While I found other vases that were not in the correct place (and reunited them with their owner) I had no such luck. I can’t imagine going into a Catholic cemetery, and stealing someones property. I’m angry and sad at the same time. I just had to express my frustration before continuing my search, and to say that I know how you feel if you had a similar experience. I’m going to engrave “Thou Shall Not Steal” on the new vase!!!

  2. Marilu Espinosa says:

    Someone stold my baby flower vase I was sou excited to visit her after work brought fresh flowers when I got ther what was my surprise was gone left I big hole I fell like they took a part of me why people cant respect emotional felling

  3. Connie Tidwell Frady says:

    I am so upset! My father was a veteran of WWII and he passed away on May 4, 1990. He is buried at Macon Memorial Park Cemetery in Macon, GA. His birthday is in 3 days on February 3rd. My daughter called me this morning in tears. She went to visit his grave for his birthday and his flowers that I put down 5 weeks ago for Christmas and his vase are GONE. There has been a huge problem with stolen vases at this cemetery for several years. My grandparents are also buried there and theirs was stolen a few years ago but the cemetery replaced it. When I was there 5 weeks ago, I noticed that there were holes at MANY graves all around theirs where there should have been vases. All stolen. I was afraid to leave theirs and since I didn’t have flowers with me for them at that time, I took theirs and put it in the trunk of my car and went by the office to let them know I had it. I was going to make an arrangement for them and take it and the vase back out there but it seems kind of pointless if they are now stealing the vases that have flowers in them. For a long time it appeared to only be vases of graves that were neglected. My father’s grave was certainly not neglected and neither was my grandparents. I’m going to check into one of the alternate vases that is not made of metal and see about getting 2 for my Daddy and my grandparents. I think the cemetery should put up a gate and make the place more secure, though. I feel that they are partially responsible as it does not seem that they are doing anything at all to try to deter this from happening. Also, someone somewhere is buying these things by the thousands and recycling them. Those recycling plants should be shut down and the owners prosecuted if they are accepting stolen merchandise and that’s exactly what this is! Pretty pathetic excuse for a human being to steal from the dead.

  4. C Helms says:

    Do you think a granite or marble vase might be a better option than bronze? I just wonder if those are also stolen from grave sites. I want you purchase one for my father’s grave but not if it will be take.

  5. Charlotte says:

    My families vases were stolen recently at Greenwood Cemetery in Knoxville, TN. My dad’s grave has a big hole in it. It had a chain too. I’ve contacted the cemetery to find out I will be responsible for replacing the vase. I’m in the process of contacting other family members because there are tons of our family members vases stolen. One that really bothers me is the vase from an infant of my cousin! They even threw her potted plant out of it and it was lying on the ground. I had never heard of this before. Unbelievable!

  6. Julie says:

    I have been reading your comments and wonder if anyone has any experience with thieves taking the whole headstone for the bronze? Unfortunately, both of my grandparents’ headstones were removed from our family cemetery recently and they never even notified us. My family is sickened by this, as #1, it is doubtful the cemetery will be covering any expenses to replace, and #2, they obviously have failed to protect our loved ones laid to rest there. So frustrated, angry and sad. Does anyone know what our rights are as citizens when caretakers fail to maintain and protect the grounds you have paid them to?

  7. Cindy Loftus says:

    This just happened to my family this week on both my Mother and Brother’s gravesites. This is absolutely sickening that people stoop so low to steal off of a grave. I am in search of an alternate replacement. Thank you for putting this site up, I think its a wonderful thing you are doing. I would like to help however I can to get the word out about this. Email me anytime.

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