Grave offense at Colma cemetery 

click to enlarge Brass vases contain copper, a valuable metal often targeted by thieves. - MIKE KOOZMIN/SPECIAL TO THE SF EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/Special to The SF Examiner
  • Brass vases contain copper, a valuable metal often targeted by thieves.

Hundreds of bronze memorial flower vases were stolen from a Colma cemetery during break-ins Feb. 3 and Feb. 18, police and cemetery officials said Wednesday.

Thieves stole a total of 533 vases from two of Cypress Lawn Memorial Park’s three cemetery locations in Colma during nighttime or early-morning darkness, Colma police Cmdr. Jon Read said.

There were no witnesses to the heists and police have made no arrests, Read told The San Francisco Examiner.

On the first occasion, thieves entered cemetery property by jumping a chain-link fence from a neighboring property, said Ken Varner, Cypress Lawn’s president and CEO. The second time, they entered a neighboring cemetery’s property through an open gate and cut through a hedge to access Cypress Lawn.

Tire tracks indicated that the vases — which weigh a few pounds and are connected with a chain to individual burial sites’ bronze memorial plaques — were loaded into a wheelbarrow, Varner said.

“These folks went to some extraordinary effort,” said Varner, who added that the cemetery will replace the $170 vases and the facility has immediately stepped up security, replacing the hedge with a metal fence.

Angelica Reyes’ father’s urn was one of the many stolen, but she said she was more annoyed than upset. She said she could even find a little bit of humor in the crime.

“What are they going to do with 300 urns?” Reyes said. “Who’s going to buy that? You can’t just walk up to the people who buy metal and say,  ‘I have these urns.’”

Colma’s 17 other cemeteries were not targeted, Mayor Raquel Gonzalez said.

Varner said there are about 10,000 such vases at the cemetery complex.

Bronze is an alloy that contains copper, which is one of the most frequently targeted items for metal thieves due to its value and widespread use.

“We’ve seen vases stolen in the past, but this is a pretty significant number,” Read said. “This is the most we’ve seen.”

Pat Curtis, owner of San Francisco Scrap Metal, said her company will call police if anything suspicious comes through.

Staff Writer Andrea Koskey contributed to this report.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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