State Rep. Gerald Mullery said he plans to re-introduce a measure in the next legislative session that would increase penalties for thefts from cemeteries.
Mullery said he is motivated to present the bill after hearing about the theft of 582 bronze vases from two Back Mountain cemeteries.
Dallas Township police on Tuesday charged Robert Krostag, 45, of Exeter Township, with stealing the bronze vases valued in excess of $407,000 from Chapel Lawn Cemetery and Fern Knoll Burial Park, according to the criminal complaint.
Police allege Krostag stole the vases from July through October and cashed in the vases at scrap facilities.
Although the thefts occurred in another legislative district, Mullery, D-Newport Township, said his bill will have an effect throughout the commonwealth.
Mullery in August 2011 introduced House Bill 1908 that made theft of property from a cemetery or burial ground a third-degree felony, which had the potential of seven years in prison upon conviction. He submitted the bill after more than 150 veterans' grave markers were stolen from three Newport Township cemeteries during 2011.
The bill had 67 co-sponsors but failed to move out of committee.
When we discussed the bill in caucus and looked at the nuts and bolts of it, a question was asked, ‘What if a kid out on a Halloween prank steals flowers from a grave? Are we going to charge a kid with a third-degree felony?' Mullery explained. So I'm going to refine it and target who we want to target.
Those targeted by Mullery's proposed bill include thieves who directly steal veterans' grave markers, bronze vases, or other metals from cemeteries for the purpose of selling them as scrap.
Mullery said he also will re-introduce a bill that would increase penalties for scrap metal dealers who knowingly accept stolen items from cemeteries.
A similar measure making headway through Harrisburg, House Bill 2032, would increase penalties for the theft of secondary metal from utility companies and railroads, which includes copper, wires, pipes and aluminum. H.B. 2032 passed the state House by a vote of 192-3 and moved to the state Senate.
Edward Lewis, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7196.