British Columbia

'It's disgusting. It's disrespectful': Bronze markers stolen from West Kelowna cemetery

City of West Kelowna calls theft, which affected 53 cemetery plots in the Westbank Cemetery, "despicable" and "depraved."

The theft, which affected 53 cemetery plots, took place on Sept. 14: city officials

The West Kelowna RCMP is investigating after 53 bronze markers were stolen from a cemetery over a week ago. (Submitted by Sandi Giddings)

The West Kelowna RCMP is investigating after 53 bronze markers were stolen from cemetery plots in West Kelowna, B.C. just over a week ago. 

Sandi Giddings, whose father's grave marker was among the ones stolen from Westbank Cemetery, said she was devastated by the news.

"When everything is said and done, you're violated," Giddings said. "It's disgusting. It's disrespectful. Get a real job."

City officials called the act "despicable" and "depraved" in a statement. Stacey Harding, the parks and fleet operations manager with the city, said the lock to the main gate was cut off in order to access the plaques on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 14.

"I'm guessing these guys know what they're doing," Harding said, noting they likely had professional tools to pry off the plaques. 

Staff have been contacting families to let them know what has happened, but say some next of kin have been hard to come by as some of the dead were interred more than 50 years ago. 

Families have to pay

Unfortunately, the families affected by the theft will be responsible for replacing the markers as city bylaws dictate that grave markers, cremation markers, and headstones are in the possession of the family, Harding said. 

Giddings said her family paid almost $1,400 for the marker for her father, who died in 2007.

A close up of one of the graves at Westbank Cemetery whose bronze marker had been stolen. (Submitted by Sandi Giddings)

"These are not cheap items," she said. "We're now going to have to go with granite so it doesn't get stolen again ... I'd do bronze again, but do I want to get it stolen again? No."

The city has reached out to suppliers to work out some reduced-price options for the affected families. The city said it will also waive the normal $300 installation fee. It's also beefed up security patrols in the area and is considering security cameras for the area. 

"The metal companies here in town will not take bronze markers. They know that they're related to crime so they're  valueless," Harding said.

"This type of activity certainly is not welcome in West Kelowna."

With files from Radio West