Thieves in the Inland Empire are making tragic situations worse as they target mourners at cemeteries.
Riverside police say there have been at least 13 car burglaries since June at Crestlawn Memorial Park and Olivewood Memorial Park.
One of the victims is Darlene Borja, whose 21-year-old grandson, Cory Hunter, died in a crash on the 91 Freeway in May.
“I don’t know what I can say to say how much he meant to me. He was everything,” Borja said.
On Wednesday, Borja stopped by Hunter’s gravesite at Crestlawn Memorial Park to leave some white roses. Her car was only about 15 feet away, so she left the doors unlocked.
Borja left the flowers and told Hunter she’d be back, but when she returned to her car, she noticed the passenger door was slightly open. That’s when she realized someone had taken her purse from the front passenger seat.
The thief got away with Borja’s wallet – which had $100 in it – her credit cards (which the thief later used), her car key and her cellphone, leaving her stranded in the heat.
“I’m just really angry. They should be ashamed of themselves,” Borja said.
Riverside Police Department Officer Ryan Railsback said the thieves are not only getting into unlocked cars but also breaking windows to get into locked ones, taking advantage of grieving families who think they are safe and secure when they are at the cemetery visiting a loved one.
He advised people visiting cemeteries to take their purse, wallet and other valuable items with them instead of leaving them in the car.
Crestlawn does have a security officer patrolling the grounds, but it’s a big cemetery. A spokesperson for the cemetery said staff are aware of the crimes and on heightened alert.
Meanwhile, Hunter’s mother, Rhonda, still can’t believe the thieves would stoop so low. “How could somebody do that to people that are going to a cemetery and already at their lowest of lowest times and steal from them?” she said. “I can’t wrap my brain around it.”
Source: NBC Los Angeles