South Yorkshire’s graveyards being used to commit hundreds of serious crimes including ‘sex attacks’, figures reveal

Criminals are using South Yorkshire’s graveyards as places to commit serious crimes such as sex attacks, assaults and theft as hundreds of offences have been reported to police in the last few years.

Friday, 5th April 2019, 8:37 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th April 2019, 11:28 am

The area’s churchyards should be reserved for quiet contemplation for grieving relatives and friends of lost loved ones.

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But an investigation by The Free Press today reveals there were 402 crimes reported to South Yorkshire Police committed in cemeteries, graveyards and crematoriums in the last five years.

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This included a wide range of offences including rape, child sex offences, assault and dozens of thefts.

The figures, revealed using the Freedom of Information Act, have led to calls for people visiting graveyards after dark to ‘exercise caution’.

Councillor Joe Blackham, cabinet member for highways, street scene and trading services at Doncaster Council, said: “We take the issue of safety in cemeteries very seriously and whilst there have been some reports of minor antisocial behaviour, these incidents have been infrequent and appear to be isolated, so we have no immediate plans to install CCTV.

“When visiting cemeteries after dark, I would advise people to exercise the same level of caution as they would when visiting any similar, slightly more secluded location.

“I would encourage visitors to report any incidents and concerns they have about safety to our staff so we can take appropriate action or if necessary to the police by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.”

The most common reported crime was theft, including items stolen from people, pedal cycles and making off without payment, with 164 incidents between 2014 and 2018.

Next was criminal damage (71), assault (63) and sex offences, including exposure and voyeurism, rape of a woman, rape of a child and sexual activity against children, with 20.

There was also 15 cases of burglary and attempted burglary.

Within the last five years, two children’s graves were raided by thieves at Rose Hill Cemetery in Cantley in 2014.

And a year later, CCTV was considered at Mexborough Cemetery to deal with concerns over vandalism and theft.

In a statement, South Yorkshire Police said: “These figures show the number of crimes recorded as taking place in cemeteries and graveyards has remained fairly consistent over the last five years.

“The majority of crimes recorded in these locations are criminal damage and theft.

“We are putting a lot of work into tackling theft and burglary across South Yorkshire and there is a lot of positive action being undertaken by our neighbourhood teams to keep local communities safe across all districts.

"It is worth saying that theft and criminal damage in these locations can cause upset and distress to families and people who visit these sites to remember loved ones.

"We would encourage people to report any suspicious activity or anything that concerns them to 101.”