Hundreds of Bronze Vases Stolen from Cypress Lawn Cemetery

More than 500 vases taken from the cemetery in Colma have an estimated value of $87,000.

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    There are more than 300,000 graves at the three Cypress Lawn sites and about 10,000 have bronze vases.

    Two separate thefts in February resulted in more than 525 bronze vases, worth more than $85,000, being taken from a Colma cemetery, Colma police Cmdr. Jon Read said.

    The first theft occurred on Feb. 3 in the west garden of Cypress Lawn Cemetery at 1370 El Camino Real when 225 bronze vases were taken, with a total value of $37,000, Read said.

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    Nickolas Marinelli works at the Italian Cemetery in Colma, Calif. The town has less than 2,000 living residents, but more than 2 million people buried there. (Published Friday, July 22, 2011)

    Ken Varner, the director of Cypress Lawn, said the thieves came through a hedge. Since then, the cemetery has added a chain link fence behind that hedge.

    About two weeks later, on Feb. 18, Cypress Lawn was struck again.

    The hillside site across the street had at least 300 more vases taken on Feb. 18. These vases had an estimated value of $50,000.

    In this case, Varner said, the Cypress Lawn gate was locked but the neighboring cemetery's gate was not and the thieves drove up to the top of the hill and came down the Cypress Lawn side.

    If melted down, the value of the bronze is estimated at $4,000, Read said.

    There are more than 300,000 graves at the three Cypress Lawn sites, with about 10,000 that have bronze vases, Varner said.

    Each vase stands between 10 and 12 inches tall and attaches to gravestones with a chain. The vases are used to plug indentations in granite stones where flowers can be placed, Varner said.

    Colma police are working with allied agencies and recycling centers on the Peninsula to identify suspects, Read said.

    Anyone with information about the thefts is encouraged to contact Colma police at (650) 997-8321.