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For the second time in less than two weeks, vandals turn over dozens of headstones at the Elmwood Cemetery.

Superintendent Steve Davis says another 30 headstones were knocked over at the cemetery on Harvester Avenue. He says the incidents were unusually close together.

“It’s going to be a long summer,” he said. “Usually it never starts this early. Usually it’s in the summertime when the kids are out of school and this year it started early. And it’s within a week and a half. I’ve never had it so close together. I’m just worried (about) what’s going to happen this summer.”

Officer Jason Davis of the Batavia Police Department says the overturned headstones occurred in the same area as the first incident April 7 along Harvester Avenue towards Buell Street. Overnight officers usually conduct business and property checks and he says patrols on all shifts are aware and check on the area; but, still, it’s difficult to enforce.

“It’s dark-lit inside the cemetery so it’s very difficult for us to see in there without a patrol car driving in there and when a patrol car drives in there usually people can duck inbetween the shadows and it’s difficult for us to see,” Officer Davis said.

Steve Davis believes the incidents have happened overnight, and though he’s at the cemetery every day, he’s not sure what to do to protect the cemetery.

“Every night when I leave, I make extra trips now,” he said. “I come by after supper sometimes and there’s a ton of kids in here riding their bikes and this and that. I try to befriend them only because this is their cemetery along with everybody else and to keep an eye on. I don’t know what the answer is: to not allow people in here anymore? You can’t do that, but how do you keep the bad ones out?”

Steve Davis says there used to be a fence around the back, but it’s been cut into twice to allow entry. Officer Davis suggested lighting the cemetery to make it easier for officers and civilians to see inside and to deter the behavior.

Davis says, even with police help, it’s difficult to spot the suspects in the overnight hours when he believes the vandalism has occurred.

“When I come in in the morning, I keep an eye, and then at night, I leave and go through the cemetery,” he said. “Sometimes I make extra trips. If I’m out and about at the store, on the way home, I’ll go through the cemetery, just to have a presence. I’m sure the police have upped their presence but it doesn’t take very long for the kids to run through here and knock stones over and out the back.”

Officer Eric Hill of the Batavia Police Department told WBTA after the first incident in early April that cemetery vandalism is reported, on average, about once a year in the entire City.

Officer Davis says the suspects could be facing charges of Criminal Tampering for each headstone turned over as well as a possible felony charge depending on the damage total.

Although the state’s cemetery vandalism fund can assist, Davis says he’s incurring hundreds of dollars in costs with the new round of vandalism.

“It seems like it’s somebody on the weekend who apparently doesn’t have anything better to do with themselves than go through our cemeteries,” Officer Davis said, “so we’re going to keep focus on that, but it doesn’t mean they can’t do it another night of the week, either.”

(picture via our news partner, The Batavian)

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