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Thieves take flag holders on military veterans' graves



Published: Fri, September 1, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Three cemeteries have reported missing flag holders in the last two weeks.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Dozens of flag holders on military veterans' graves were stolen from three cemeteries.

The flag holders -- made of brass and copper -- are issued for veterans' graves by the Lawrence County Office of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans Affairs director Shirley Noga said she's had reports of flag holders missing from Clinton Cemetery, St. Lucy Cemetery and Valley View Cemetery, all located in New Castle, within the last two weeks.

Richard Hunt, caretaker at St. Lucy's, said that he noticed Tuesday that the flag holders were missing, but that he thinks they could have been taken up to two weeks ago.

According to Hunt, the small flags are placed on the graves every veterans holiday. They were taken from the holders and then the flags were placed upright in the ground -- making it appear as if the holders were still present.

He said there were at least 18 flag holders missing from his cemetery, but he was planning to do a complete accounting of each grave late Thursday.

About 50 flag holders had been removed from Valley View Cemetery on Seventh Street, according to a police report.

Made of copper, brass

Noga said the flag holders taken were issued well over a decade ago when they were still made of brass and copper. The flag holders issued now are aluminum, she said. The change was made because of a problem with theft in the 1990s, she noted.

In recent months, there has been a rash of copper thefts in Lawrence County from homes, businesses and cemeteries. Authorities have attributed the theft to the rising prices scrap yards are paying for the metals.

Earlier this summer, area scrap yards were paying anywhere from $2.50 to $2.65 per pound for copper. Prices have since dropped, with Youngstown Iron & amp; Metal paying $1.90 to $2.10 per pound this week.

This isn't the first time cemeteries in the county have had a problem with thieves looking for scrap metal. In July more than 50 copper vases used for flowers at grave sites were taken from various cemeteries.

New Castle Police said they have contacted scrap yards in the county to be on the lookout for the flag holders.

The holders have two metal rods, and attached at the top is a circular medallion citing the war in which a veteran served.

cioffi@vindy.com




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