Police: 2 men in custody for stealing metal urns

October 31, 2011 3:21:11 PM PDT
Chicago police have arrested two people they say stole dozens of funeral vases and plaques worth thousands of dollars from several cemeteries and wanted to sell them.

Police in Chicago's 4th District said that they have pulled in the Cook County Sheriff's Department, which apparently has an ongoing investigation into this type of robbery. Outrageous as they may seem, graveyard theft is becoming more common as the price of metals, such as brass and copper, go up.

"It's terrible. I mean, you got a deceased member and families that cherish their loved ones, and they give a little monument for their family member there," said Officer Michael Malecki, Chicago Police Department 4th District

Malecki was one of the police officers who responded Monday morning to a theft-in-progress call on the 10100-block of South Ewing. When they arrived, he says, they came upon two men loading some items into the back of an SUV.

"When we walked up on them to investigate, we observed that they looked like vases, and then it came to mind they are actually cemetery urns," said Malecki.

Still covered in mud from the gravesites from which they were stolen, 89 brass urns and an inscribed grave marker were recovered. The building where they were being taken from was, according to police, just a storage site. Police say cemeteries sell the urns for between $100-$500 apiece, putting the value of the heist between $9,000-$45,000.

"It appears there are recent thefts from cemeteries in Chicago and the south suburb area," said Cmdr. Kevin Ryan, 4th District, CPD. "My best guess would be that they would take them to a scrap yard and try to sell them for cash."

Police were still trying to determine which cemetery the urns may have come from. They're asking anybody who may have experienced that kind of theft to report it. Charges against the two men arrested were still pending.

Police spokesman John Mirabelli says the men were arrested around 8 a.m. Monday after police received a call about a burglary at an apartment building.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Load Comments