Caught on Camera: Attempted Theft at NJ Cemetery

A quiet Ocean County cemetery was the target of an alleged thief Friday afternoon and the whole incident was caught on surveillance video.

A man wearing a dark coat and a reddish hood is seen trying to pry open collection boxes inside a mausoleum at Saint Mary’s of the Lake Cemetery in Toms River, N.J. The boxes are where people leave small donations after lighting candles in the memory of loved ones at the sacred location.

“My mother is in fact buried here in this mausoleum also, so I take personal offense to it,” said Erik Gross.

The man is seen on video pulling a tool out of his backpack that he used to repeatedly try to pry open six different donation boxes inside the mausoleum that serves as the final resting place for hundreds.

“It’s very sad -- it really is,” said mourner Phyllis Wood.

In an interesting twist, the surveillance system was installed just three hours before the attempted thefts. The cameras were installed because of similar crimes at the mausoleum, according to cemetery officials.

Earlier thefts also prompted cemetery officials to double lock the boxes, which likely prevented the man from getting to the cash, officials said.

Despite coming up empty handed, the theft still managed to do about $3,000 worth of damage to the donation boxes, according to cemetery officials.

The vandalism also prompted cemetery officials to consider revised hours and more bumped up security, they said.

Anyone who recognizes the man caught on camera should contact Toms River Police at 732-349-0150.

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