Lehi community concerned following cemetery thefts

LEHI, Utah - A Lehi mom is hoping to make change after she said someone stole from her daughter's grave site.

Amber Baum isn't the only person who's reporting theft in such a sacred place. Other families said they, too, have had their loved one's headstone decorations stolen.

Baum said she visits her late daughter McKenzie's grave site two or three times a week. During holidays and McKenzie's birthday, her family does something extra special.

"Come out and leave something for her, and just kind of reminisce and just love her," Baum said.

In February, Baum said she left a pink lantern with McKenzie's photo, along with a wreath she made herself out of tulips.

But a few days later, the lantern disappeared. She checked with the cemetery and they told her they didn't clean it up.

"It's especially hurtful because it's the last way you can really show them your love physically," Baum said.

McKenzie's headstone is just one of many around the Lehi cemetery decorated with little mementos and tokens to remember those lost.

Lehi City Cemetery Sexton Shawn Winters said some families come visit every day and keep up on the decorations.

"It's disheartening from our standpoint," he said, of seeing those pieces of love turn into heartbreak for the family instead.

"You hear more of the, 'Hey, I put this there, I put that there, it's gone,'" he said. "And we haven't even done our cleanup yet."

He said the cemetery cleans up regularly from the spring through the fall, but they mainly remove dead flowers and foliage. They don't touch anything on the actual graves. If something is sitting in the grass where they need to mow, he said they'll take it to their office for safekeeping.

Lehi City Police do regularly patrol the cemetery, Winters explained.

Still, theft happens.

Dayna Neel said while they decorate her mother's grave regularly, several items have gone missing. The first time she experienced theft, she said someone took a special antique-looking watering can engraved with her mother's name.

"We kind of cut back on what we put here, because of the fact that it also becomes expensive," Neel said. "You don't appreciate getting stolen from."

Morgan Hill said people have stolen from her mother's grave, as well as the headstones of her sister and brother.

They've gotten creative to deter thieves but chaining the decorations down.

"We chain them all together, we loop around the tree, we stake things in, we have to wire things a million times, and then wire them again," she explained.

Baum said she bought a tracker for the wreath at her daughter's grave. She downloaded an app that allows her to log on and see the wreath's whereabouts if it disappears.

"I don't want to worry about people taking the things that I leave for her out of love," she said.

She said she also plans to go to the Lehi City Council to figure out better solutions for the cemetery, like the possibility of installing a security camera system.

Baum said she also posted a photo of the lantern on social media, in hopes someone will recognize it, and it can be returned.