A total of 72 bronze vases valued at a total of $50,400 were stolen from Waco Memorial Cemetery in Robinson in the last week, and authorities continue to investigate other potential thefts, Robinson Police Chief Rusty Smith said Tuesday.

A theft report was made to Robinson police Tuesday morning before investigators discovered 72 vases, each costing about $700, were reported missing from grave markers at the cemetery, Smith said.

Because of the large number of vases missing, authorities are also working with families and nearby cemeteries to see if other bronze markers or vases have been reported missing, primarily because of the high market price of copper.

“When bronze is about 88 percent copper and copper prices continue to climb, there is a market there for thieves who sell them to scrap metal buyers,” Smith said. “Whether they melt (vases) down or whether they are just taking them to places that buy copper, we don’t know.”

The commodity futures price for high-grade copper peaked at about $4.50 per pound in 2011 and has trended down since. But the price has jumped from about $2.10 to about $2.59 in the past month, according to Nasdaq.com.

Police received the first report of missing vases Tuesday morning, which led officers to find at least 72 vases missing at Waco Memorial Cemetery. Officers spoke with groundskeepers who think the vases were at the cemetery Nov. 22, two days before Thanksgiving, Smith said.

Officials who oversee the cemetery declined to comment.

Smith said scrap metal buyers in the area often ask for a letter of consent from a cemetery or local business before purchasing an item to ensure it has not been illegally taken. Robinson officers have contacted local scrap metal buyers, but none has reported anyone trying to sell bronze vases.

Officers also are investigating other nearby cemeteries, including Chapel Hill Memorial Park, to see if any vases or markers have been reported missing.

Investigators do not know if the thieves are local to the area or may be taking vases out of the area to sell.

“It’s sad that someone would do this to something that is in loving memory of someone else,” Smith said. “That site means something to someone, and this is almost along the same lines of someone who desecrates a church or a sacred site.”

Smith said Tuesday’s discovery is not the first time bronze vases have been stolen from the local cemetery. Several years ago, thieves took a similar number of bronze vases. Smith said no arrests were made in the case.

Anyone with information regarding the thefts is asked to call Waco Crime Stoppers at 753-4357. Callers can remain anonymous.

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