Metal Thieves Steal from Graveyards

Harris County authorities are looking for a new type of metal thief in the Houston area. Metal thieves have long preyed on homes and businesses — stealing valuable copper and other semi-precious metals. But as Laurie Johnson reports — the crime has taken a disturbing turn.

Copper coils from air conditioners are one of the top targets of metal thieves. They also go after certain parts in cars and basically any place they can get their hands on scrap metals they can turn in for cash.

But Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says now the crooks are stealing metal vases from cemeteries.

"We have identified a group of individuals who have made it their business to steal from the dead and to victimize some families once again. And this is — I want these people in jail and I want your help to put them in jail and then they can take a look at all the metal they want. It'll be bars that they'll be looking at."

The vases are used to display flowers and mementos on gravesites. Harris County Lt. Jeff Stauber says they identified seven people as suspects who tried to sell the vases to scrap metal shops.

"This time of year, being the holidays, a lot of folks like to go visit their loved ones or deceased loved ones. And you know to go to the location and see something taken from the gravesite, it really put us in a situation where we said we've got to do something about this case. So we worked diligently and did not stop on it and worked on this case exclusively to bring this case to this result today."

Stauber says about 400 of the brass vases were stolen. They cost about $300 each, although their value as scrap
metal is only a fraction of that. For more information about the suspects, visit the Metal Theft Suspect photos (PDF format).

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...