Vandals could not have picked a worse time to overturn and damage 16 headstones at Greenlawn Cemetery, service director Chris Murphy said on Tuesday.
“We're putting in a lot of effort to keep the grass cut now,” he said. “It was a little slower during the December vandalism when we were removing tree limbs and getting equipment ready for spring.”
For the second time since December, vandals over the weekend damaged 16 stones and overturned 14 others about 50 feet from Grant Street.
Murphy said the damage is not as bad as in December.
But now that spring is here, cemetery workers now must take time to reset and fix the stones, which takes away from routine maintenance at the cemetery.
“Once we start cutting the grass we have to keep it up,” Murphy said. “We can't get behind on that, especially after it rains.”
He said if it rains on Thursday as predicted, workers will reset the stones then.
Portsmouth City Council, including vice president Marty Mohr, has talked about upgrading security in the cemetery.
He said his father, Julian, is buried at Greenlawn.
“I'm concerned for the people that's doing this,” Mohr said. “What's wrong with these people? What's driving them to do this? We've got to do something about it. What we can do, I don't know.”
Probably not much, according to Murphy.
“I don't know if there's really any way we can stop it,” he said. “We can light the place up like a Christmas tree and put in cameras. But there was a street light close to where the latest vandalism was.
“This is a challenge that's facing me. We've got to decide how we're going to handle it.”
Mohr said City Council would continue looking for ways to improve security at the cemetery.
Murphy said he suspects juveniles are responsible for the damage, but that police have made no arrests.
He said Lt. Lynn Brewer was at the cemetery on Monday looking at the damage.
Brewer said police think those who did the December vandalism are responsible for the latest incident. The police Department is still offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for December's damage to the cemetery, Brewer said.
The last two incidents are not unique to the cemetery. It reportedly has been plagued by several vandalism episodes the past few years.
JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.