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Tombstone Vandalism: Not a Halloween Prank

Graveyard .

Graveyards and ghosts are as closely linked with Halloween as pumpkins and trick-or-treating—even more so, historically. Tombstone vandalism, however, is hardly a “harmless Halloween prank.” While no cemetery is immune to acts of vandalism, many experience increased tombstone vandalism in conjunction with Halloween, reports the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA).

When we bury our loved ones, we do so with the belief they will rest in peace. The idea their tombstone could be vandalized is incredibly upsetting. It's natural to feel such an act is a personal attack on your family. While you may not be able to catch the hooligans responsible for the damage, home insurance may help cover the cost of replacing the gravestone. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Tombstone vandalism is more common than you may think.

The risk of such activities increases significantly in October and around Halloween, cautions the ICCFA. If you’re worried about your family’s plot, talk to a cemetery representative about security measures. Simple steps, like locking cemetery gates at night and limiting access during the day, can reduce opportunities for vandalism.

2. Teach children and teens to respect graveyards.

From movies to music, pop culture has created a mysterious allure around graveyards. A teen may sneak into a graveyard at night, for example, as a way to prove to other teens that he or she isn’t scared of ghosts or being alone in a “haunted” place. If you are a parent, remind your children graveyards are sacred and peaceful places. Explain to your child that defacing a gravestone is not only an act of vandalism (and will be punished accordingly by the law) but is also a disrespectful and malicious act. There are plenty of ways for teens to prove to their peers just how brave they are, without including sneaking into a graveyard as an option.

3. Have you been a victim of tombstone vandalism?

Damage to cemetery property can be costly financially as well as emotionally. For some individuals, costs associated with replacing a broken or defaced gravestone due to vandalism may fall under their home insurance policy. Some policies may reimburse for that damage but if the damage is due to natural causes (such as lack of appropriate cemetery maintenance or poor-quality materials), either the cemetery caretaker or gravestone manufacturer should foot the bill. Talk to your insurance agent.

4. Know when to go to the police.

While rare, in some cases, whole cemeteries may be targeted for vandalism. Sometimes the cost is not just financial or emotional but also historical—damage to these sites can permanently destroy irreplaceable markers. And the emotional harm can reach far beyond the loved ones of the departed. In the last year alone, there have been several such incidents in the United States. If you suspect any damage done to your loved one’s gravestone is connected to a hate crime, do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement.

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