In an attempt to end the hundreds of cemetery desecration cases each year, the New York state Senate unanimously approved a bill criminalizing and increasing penalties for even minor damage to cemeteries.
The bill, sponsored by Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, also establishes a far more serious punishment for second-time offenders.
There are hundreds of reports each year of toppled tombstones, graffiti, desecration of remains, and outright demolition, according to a press release by Felder’s office. In the United States last year, more than 1,800 individual markers were affected, costing at least $488,000 to repair.
Currently, the amount of damages an offender is required to pay is capped at $250. The bill makes cemetery desecration a class E felony to apply to any damage or theft regardless of value.
“The consequences of cemetery vandalism are not limited to property damage, but can result in emotional trauma to the relatives and friends of the departed whose grave has been desecrated,” Felder said. “It’s about time New York state got tougher on the individuals who commit these horrific crimes.”
The bill was sent to the Assembly; it does not have a sponsor in that chamber yet.