Stolen West Kelowna gravestone markers could cost $100,000 to replace | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Stolen West Kelowna gravestone markers could cost $100,000 to replace

Bronze plaques were stolen off 53 Westbank Cemetery gravestones.
September 25, 2019 - 2:36 PM

WEST KELOWNA - Thieves who made off with 53 bronze grave markers from Westbank Cemetery likely netted less than $1,500 for their effort, but it will cost around $70,000 to replace those plaques and another $30,000 to make them safer from future thievery.

RCMP were notified of the thefts on Sept. 16 but news of the crime surfaced earlier this week.

Thefts of grave markers for their metal value are not common, although four large bronze plaques were stolen from Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Kelowna in July.

“Something of this great a magnitude is probably pre-planned,” Michelle Robinson, general manager of Grateful Granite in Summerland said.

“There are regulations in place that say cemetery memorials are not to be accepted and melted down. Somebody on the sly has set up an agreement with someone to melt them down and they’ve just gone in one fell swoop and taken out as many as possible.”

Robinson knows of only one other large scale theft from a cemetery in recent years and that was in Nelson.

There’s one simple motive for such a theft. Bronze is generally about 90 per cent copper, which has a high value with recyclers.

Today, Sept. 25, the price for bronze at one local scrap metal recycler is $1.70 per pound. The price of copper fluctuates but is "mediocre" at this time, a worker at the scrap metal recycler said.

The plaques stolen from West Kelowna were 16 inches by 10 inches and likely weighed about 15 pounds each, Robinson estimated.

That’s a total of about 800 pounds. At $1.70 per pound, that would yield less than $1,400 at a scrap yard, if they were already melted down so they could be accepted legally.

While the price for plaques varies, depending on the lettering and artwork, they could cost around $1,300 or more to replace each one, Robinson said, for a total of about $69,000.

She suspects the plaques were bolted to concrete and fairly easily popped off with a crowbar. A more secure method of mounting would be to bolt through the granite. Depending on size, the granite could weigh 150 pounds and add $600 to the price – or almost $32,000 in total.

“The bolts go through the granite so you can’t just pop the bronze off,” Robinson explained. “You physically have to smash away the granite or take the granite with you - which is ridiculous because they are super heavy – and flip it over and undo the bolts.

“It’s a more labour intensive process so it kind of deters more theft in that respect. The fact that it's bronze makes it a target because they know they can get something for it if they take it to the right person. There’s really no way to 100 per cent guard yourself against it.”

The City of West Kelowna has waived its $300 installation fees.

Darlene Alexander, a parks clerk at the cemetery, said she’s been in contact with about 75 per cent of the affected families.

While there has been some concern expressed on social media about finding that right grave for a new plaque, that can be done online at the cemetery website here.

There are also resources available to find the exact wording on the plaques but Robinson said it may not be possible to make identical replicas because different foundries have different styles and some are no longer in business.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2019

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