Is more security needed at Mt. Hope Cemetery?

Posted at: 05/03/2013 5:30 PM
Updated at: 05/03/2013 5:53 PM
By: Ray Levato

Some consider it sacred ground, but others claim it's a playground for vandals. Dozens of headstones have been damaged over the last few weeks at Mount Hope Cemetery, a Rochester landmark. And it's not the first time.

So does the cemetery need more security? And what does the Rochester Police Department plan to do about it?

There are 350,000 headstones in Mt. Hope Cemetery. Unfortunately, there are people who get their kicks from tipping them over.

Marilyn Nolte, of Friends of Mt. Hope Cemetery, showed News10NBC some of the damage. Many were in an area where prominent Rochesterians are buried. Cemetery workers have put most of them back.

Nolte said, “There has been drug paraphernalia found in here recently. We don't know if that has anything to do with it. Some people just seem to get some form of satisfaction out of destroying things. It's very difficult to understand those people. Why they would want to do it?”

Friends of Mt. Hope says it commends the city of Rochester for trying to prevent vandalism, but...

Nolte said, “Security can always be better in a cemetery. Cemeteries are always vulnerable.”

Two years ago, somebody tipped over 70 headstones. Jeffrey Simmons is the cemetery manager.
He says this time, city police came and took a report and tried to get fingerprints from the toppled stones.

Simmons said, “Yes, we understand there are some concerns over security. In the last year, we pretty much repaired our fence on the perimeter. The entry gates we welded those and tried to close some of the breaches. And also we're in the process of hiring seasonal security guards.”

The cemetery also plans to stagger work shifts to cover more nighttime hours. But spotting people in a cemetery at night is not easy.

Simmons said, “As security, what we do is we do have lights, bug beam lights that we shine through. But I think a presence in the cemetery will avoid people coming in.”

This was brought to News10NBC's attention by a family member of one of the people whose headstones was toppled over. Rochester Police said they would listen to any ideas the Friends of Mt. Hope come forward with including making night-time patrols in the cemetery. By the way, the Friends of Mt. Hope accepts donations to help pay for the repair and uprighting of stones and monuments. For more information, click here.