Reports of theft and vandalism at Sheffield cemeteries double in two years

New figures show that reports of theft and vandalism at cemeteries in Sheffield have more than doubled in the space of two years.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 11:38 am

There were 19 such crimes recorded by police during 2020 and the end of May this year, compared with eight during the whole of 2018 and 2019 combined, data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals.

Sheffield Council said that while it was ‘really sad’ that some people showed no respect for the dead, the figures were relatively low, with less than one crime recorded per cemetery each year.

But a grieving mother whose daughter’s grave at City Road Cemetery was targeted by thieves believes the figures do not show the full extent of the problem, with many crimes likely to have gone unreported.

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Brooke Staves, her daughter Aiyla and her partner Lee Harrison at baby Imogen's funeral, and Imogen's grave at City Road Cemetery lit up by the lights before they were stolen

The figures in question cover all 16 council-owned cemeteries and some of the crimes may have taken place outside the cemeteries but South Yorkshire Police said its records indicated that 15 had taken place within the grounds.

Of the eight crimes recorded during the first five months of this year, three were criminal damage, one was theft from a motor vehicle and four were listed as ‘theft if not classified elsewhere’.

In 2020, there were five counts of criminal damage, one of theft from a motor vehicle and five other thefts.

After she appealed for information about the sickening crime, several people got in touch to say their loved ones’ graves had also been looted or vandalised.

Ms Staves said she was so traumatised by what had happened she has now applied to have her daughter cremated so she can keep her ashes at home.

"Based on what I’ve heard from other families, the true number of graves targeted by thieves or vandals is much higher but most people aren’t reporting it to police,” she said.

"People think you can just replace things but they don’t realise the upset it causes you when you’re grieving enough as it is already.

"Since I rang up to report it to the groundskeeper, nobody’s even been in touch with me about what happened, and I do think the council needs to do more to prevent these crimes which are causing heartbreak for so many families.”

Councillor Alison Teal, Sheffield Council’s executive member for sustainable neighbourhoods, wellbeing, parks and leisure, said: “Our cemeteries are sanctuaries of peace and remembrance and we work hard to make sure they are well maintained and welcoming for those visiting loved ones. It’s really sad that some people show no regard or respect for the deceased, by stealing items from graves.

“We manage 16 cemeteries across the city and do not have the resources to monitor this type of activity across all of them. We try to make them as secure as possible, but some can be accessed out of hours.

"We have not been made aware of any specific locations being targeted, or seen an increase in criminal activity, and the data from South Yorkshire Police suggests that per cemetery less than one crime per year was recorded.”Coun Teal urged anyone witnessing criminal or suspicious activity to report it to police on 101.