Serious crimescarried out in city graveyards

Criminals are using the area's graveyards as places to commit serious crimes such as sex attacks, assaults and theft as hundreds of offences have been reported to police in the last few years.

By Lee Peace
Saturday, 06 April, 2019, 08:16

South Yorkshire's churchyards should be reserved for quiet contemplation for grieving relatives and friends of lost loved ones.

Green Party councillor Douglas Johnson.

But an investigation by The Star today reveals there were 402 crimes reported to South Yorkshire Police committed in cemeteries, churchyards and graveyards in the last five years.

This included a wide range of offences such as rape, child sex offences, assault and dozens of thefts.

The figures, revealed using the Freedom of Information Act, come after South Yorkshire Police last year wrote to Sheffield Council suggesting Sheffield General Cemetery could be closed during the evening as part of a raft of measures to reduce crime at the historic site.

Suzanne Turton, designing out crime officer for the force, said at the time: "Consideration should be given to closing the cemetery on an evening to discourage youths loitering and causing a nuisance.”

The Sheffield General Cemetery.

She also advised that lighting should be installed to "support a CCTV system" and fittings should be "protected where vulnerable to vandalism."

The most common reported crime was theft, including items stolen from people, pedal cycles and making off without payment, with 164 incidents between 2014 and 2018.

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Next was criminal damage (71), assault (63) and sex offences – including exposure and voyeurism, rape of a woman, rape of a child and sexual activity against children, with 20.

There was also 15 cases of burglary and attempted burglary.

But city centre councillor Douglas Johnson believes the figures show “cemeteries across South Yorkshire are generally safe places for the public and people go there – at all hours of the day – for their peaceful beauty and tranquillity.”

While it always “disappointing” to hear about crimes committed, he added: “The safest way to maintain cemeteries is for more people to use them for a place of rest and quietness.”

In a statement, South Yorkshire Police said: “These figures show the number of crimes recorded as taking place in cemeteries and graveyards has remained fairly consistent over the last five years. The majority of crimes recorded in these locations are criminal damage and theft.

“We are putting a lot of work into tackling theft and burglary across South Yorkshire and there is a lot of positive action being undertaken by our neighbourhood teams to keep local communities safe across all districts.

"It is worth saying that theft and criminal damage in these locations can cause upset and distress to families and people who visit these sites to remember loved ones.

"We would encourage people to report any suspicious activity or anything that concerns them to 101.”