Vandalism

Vandalism affects us all.  You can make a difference.

Unlike most histories, graveyards record the lives of all, signify past existences, and recognize one commonality of us all.  The history of the rich and poor, famous and infamous alike, is recorded here.  Histories of entire towns may be present only here, and elements of local history may survive here as nowhere else.

Graveyards are often the only record, the only artifacts remaining to tell of lives - of individuals and communities - struggled for, well lived in the face of sometimes tremendous odds, and finally given up reluctantly or "with peaceful composure"...

~ from The Graveyard Preservation Primer, by Lynette Strangstad

Many cemeteries in Maine and the nation suffer frequent vandalism, but it is not a hopeless situation.  Law enforcement officials often find that they do not have the manpower to catch the one who do the damage.  There are, however, many things the public can do - in concert with local government - to prevent vandalism.

Often these crimes are treated as victimless crimes, but they are not.  Cemetery lots and stones are owned by families, just as houses and cars are.  Cemetery vandalism is a crime against the whole community.  Don't hesitate to express your feelings to the authorities.  The more people who contact them, the greater the effect.

Prevention

  1. Improve lighting by placing a strategic street light or motion detector.
  2. Ask neighbors to call law enforcement if they notice activity in the cemetery after dark.  It is illegal to be in a cemetery after dark.
  3. Ask specific people to act as cemetery monitors and report problems to the authorities.
  4. Make access more difficult by fencing or gating access roads.
  5. Open up the view to passersby by removing brush or other screens.
  6. Forlorn or neglected cemeteries attract the attention of vandals.  They think no one cares, no one will notice, no one will complain.  Ask your town meeting or city council for funds to maintain cemeteries.

After the Fact

  1. Contact law enforcement on a regular basis.  Find out to whom the case has been assigned.
  2. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.  Encourage people to come forward with information.
  3. Ask your local paper to assign a reporter to write a story.
  4. Offer a reward for information through the town or local historical society.
  5. See that the damage is repaired as soon as the assessment is made.  Vandalism begets vandalism.

Prosecution

  1. If someone is arrested, contact your District Attorney/Victim Advocate.  Express your concern and expectations for restitution, public service, or even imprisonment.
  2. Make sure an accurate assessment is made of the damages because that figure determines the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor charges resulting in punishment.
  3. Contact the Victim Advocate every few days for updates about charges and court dates.
  4. Attend the court date if possible.
  5. If you have been directly affected by the vandalism, you may be allowed to speak at the trial.  Ask the Victim Advocate.

Dedicated to the Preservation of Maine's Neglected Cemeteries since 1968.
Maine Old Cemetery Association, PO Box 641, Augusta, ME 04332-0641
MOCA is a non-profit Maine corporation and is tax exempt under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

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