Addressing Operational Risks for Cemeteries

August 24, 2020

While some people might not consider cemeteries to be places where liabilities and crimes occur, they’re more of a target than traditionally thought. Yes, there are stories of teenagers breaking in as a prank, but serious crimes, such as vandalism and theft, are more common than one might think.

For example, in Iowa this past summer, more than 50 Headstones were desecrated, knocked over by vandals in the night. This kind of damage highlights the need for more security and a cemetery risk management plan, including the right level of insurance and protecting cemeteries against other operational risks.

Theft

Theft is a significant problem at community cemeteries. Without the proper amount of security, thieves may steal flowers, mementos, nameplates, or floral urns. Most theft cases don’t involve high-value items, but they still affect the sentiment that people have with their loved ones buried there. In some cases, brass memorial plaques are targeted by people who want to sell the metal for a profit. If this kind of theft occurs, cemeteries may be on the hook for replacing them.

Vandalism

Whether it’s kicking over headstones or spray-painting mausoleums, vandals attack in many different ways. Sometimes vandalism is executed by teenagers or drunk people, but it can also be considered a hate crime and motivated by religion, race, or politics. Cemetery vandalism is a growing problem in the U.S., with several widespread incidents getting media attention.

In many cases of vandalism, it isn’t just one or two graves desecrated. Criminals may target dozens of graves and headstones in one night. Family members expect their loved ones’ gravesites to be protected and respected at all times. Discovering damage is devastating and expensive, and only hurts those it affects.

Alcohol, Drug Use & Partying

Cemeteries are often in more rural and remote areas or hidden areas within urban locations without frequent visitors. This makes them targets for drug dealing, alcohol and drug use, gang activity, and partying, especially at night. A cemetery risk management plan should include enough security to keep an eye on this kind of behavior, discouraging these operational risks from happening.

Funeral Disruption

While not as common as vandalism, theft, or partying, cemeteries are still open to incidents that disrupt a funeral in progress, including protestors, fights, or vagrants. With a cemetery risk management plan that includes regular monitoring and surveillance, cemeteries can limit these disruptions so families can pay their respects in peace

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