Twenty-first century grave robbing has become an aboveground affair. You can’t get much lower than stealing from the dead.
Gone are the days when enterprising thieves would dig up an old grave and pillage for gold teeth and rings. Today, it's mostly the bronze markers and flower vases that draw their attention.
Rising scrap metal prices, coupled with the lagging economy, have triggered a string of cemetery thefts both locally and across the nation.
But grave robbers beware: The authorities are getting wise. States are passing laws and police are cracking down.
The value of a bronze vase is about $300. The scrap metal price for the same vase is only about $10.
Grave robbery was more common in the 19th century, when thieves dug up the dead in a search for gold. Sometimes they snatched the bodies for medical experiments.
In 1876, three men broke into Abraham Lincoln's burial site in Springfield, Ill., in an attempt to steal the body and hold it for ransom. The men were caught in progress.
Through the decades, such nefarious acts became uncommon.
But now, grave robbery is quietly sweeping the nation. Again.
Three men were arrested earlier this month on charges of stealing more than 1,000 brass vases and headstones from nine Chicago-area cemeteries.
Also this month, about 150 bronze vases were reportedly stolen from a West Virginia cemetery. In addition, a man was arrested on charges of stealing 55 vases from grave sites in the Fort Myers, Fla. area.
In the last few weeks, robberies have been reported at cemeteries in Arizona, Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina.