Police unit to combat cemetery hoodlums

  • 2001-11-29
  • Nick Coleman
RIGA - Municipal authorities in the Latvian capital on Nov. 20 ordered the creation of a police unit to crack down on crime in cemeteries, particularly flower theft and activities which deter traditional candle-lit commemorations.

Municipal spokesman Guntars Kukuls said the 17-officer municipal police unit - to start work on Jan. 1 - will target those who pillage flowers from graves to resell them in the city's markets, as well as vandals and the "psychologically disturbed" who frighten people off visiting the graves of loved ones on dark autumn nights.

"We want to do away with the idea that it's only safe to visit cemeteries in the day time," said Kukuls. "There are a lot of remembrance days in the autumn when people like to visit graves to light candles, particularly on Candle Night - the last Sunday in November."

The lawless reputation of Latvia's cemeteries was compounded earlier this year when a cemetery official and a grave digger were caught taking bribes from those wanting prime burial spots.

Municipal police have been ordered to draft regulations for the new unit in cooperation with the relevant municipal departments by Dec. 1. Some 21,000 lats ($33,870) will be spent setting up the unit, after which expenditure is expected to be 51,500 lats annually.