Dear Editor: As manager of Lawnwood, I would like to shed some light on your article from Friday (Vases stolen from tombstones) by making people aware that we are doing something concerning thefts.
We have filed reports with the Newton County Sheriff’s department on the three most recent instances of theft, earlier instances were much smaller, less than 10 vases, and were handled internally. In each instance we are told that they will step up patrols and I have confidence in the sheriff that that is communicated to the deputies.
Lawnwood does employ an off-duty deputy to make periodic checks through the cemetery at night. He has our permission and it has been relayed to the sheriff’s department that anyone on the grounds of Lawnwood after 9 p.m. may be stopped and questioned and will be asked to leave for their safety and the safety of the families that use Lawnwood.
Fifteen percent of every lot purchased in Lawnwood goes into an irrevocable trust fund as required by State law to make sure that the cemetery is taken care of if we were to ever go out of busi- ness. The Secretary of State’s office has told us that we are not responsible for the replacement of vandalized or stolen items and they will not allow us to use any of those funds to replace items that are vandalized or stolen.
Lawnwood families have had vases stolen just five times in almost 57 years. Each time, we have repaired or replaced items at our cost, but it is not economically feasible to continue to do that in today’s economy (each vase is actually valued at $278). This is without a doubt the largest theft of vases we have ever experienced. That is why we have tried to find a lower cost vase alternative that is made of zinc (worthless if stolen) so that the families that have trusted us with their loved ones are not faced with a huge economic hit to their own personal finances.
I am currently in contact with our insurance carrier to see what our options are under our policies and it is my hope that they will be able to help us replace some or all of the vases at no charge to the families. Those families that cannot wait for that decision have the opportunity to purchase one of the lower cost vases.