Visiting a cemetery for a funeral or to visit a gravesite, mausoleum or memorial can be a challenging time. Often, visitors may be focusing on the experience ahead and may not always pay attention to their safety or the security of their belongings.
Whilst most people would think that others would respect the cemetery environment, unfortunately, some offenders see a cemetery as an ideal place to prey on distracted visitors.
The six Metropolitan Cemeteries Board cemetery sites span a total hectare coverage of 375 hectares. Karrakatta Cemetery is 99 hectares and sees over 1 million visitors each year.
Incidents of break-ins and the theft of property from vehicles are unfortunately not an isolated issue but a concern throughout all six cemeteries. The MCB has found that these are mostly opportunistic crimes. As a result, preventative measures and education of cemetery visitors and staff work best to combat theft.
What you can do
- Look, Lock and Leave. Opportunity creates a thief, so as you prepare to leave your car, take a good look around to see if anyone is watching. Ensure you completely lock your car and ideally remove any valuables or at least hide them from view. Better still, leave your valuables at home.
- Report suspicious behaviour. If you see behaviour that looks suspicious, report it immediately to one of the MCB staff, or the police on 131 444 or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.
- Be careful, even if you are close to your car. Sometimes families park their car close to where they are visiting and the car may even be in plain view –please don’t leave your keys in the ignition or leave the car doors unlocked, even for a moment.
What the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board does
The MCB has put in a large variety of measures to help create a safer and more secure cemetery environment. These include:
- CCTV cameras in key positions to help in identification of offenders. WA Police have access to these cameras.
- All MCB staff receive ‘Eyes on the Street’ training provided by the Crime Prevention and Community Liaison Unit of Western Australia Police. This training empowers our staff to recognise and report suspicious behavior, many of whom work on the grounds during the day. The MCB’s vehicles are branded with the ‘Eyes on the Street’ logo, providing a visible deterrent to would-be offenders.
- Large permanent signs warning visitors not to leave valuables in vehicles and to ensure vehicles are securely locked are placed at all entrances, along fence lines and dotted throughout our cemeteries. We also have a transportable high visibility electronic sign system which is moved around the sites, reinforcing different security messages.
- If individuals or groups of criminals choose to target a cemetery, the MCB will increase its own surveillance, will work with police, local governments or security companies for an additional presence or patrols and will undertake covert monitoring operations with WA Police.
- As all of the MCB cemetery sites are also public open spaces we do encourage public access as when members of the community choose to walk or exercise in the cemetery grounds, this in itself creates passive surveillance and may deter criminal behaviour.
- Funeral directors and monumental masons are frequently in the cemetery grounds performing their services. These groups are reminded to be observant for criminal behaviour and are alerted if there is any increased activity.
- Cemetery buildings do have alarms, sensor lighting and gates to reduce opportunities for crime overnight.
Whilst most in a civilised society would consider that any theft is an unacceptable act and that theft from a cemetery is even more reprehensible, it is challenging to completely control these behaviours and still provide a pleasant environment for the majority of law-abiding cemetery visitors.
The MCB continues to monitor security within its cemeteries and work closely with police and the community to ensure the safety and security of the public remains a paramount consideration.