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Historic cemetery hit by vandals

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 12 2013 04:38:52 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 12 2013 05:10:22 PM CST

Vandals hit cemetery in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

Vandals have been haunting a historic South Bethlehem cemetery.  The site has been hit twice in the last three months.  Police believe the tags on the tombstones and mausoleums are gang symbols.  And not everyone plans to stand back and let the thuggish graffiti continue.

St. Michael's Cemetery overlooks the city of Bethlehem.

"This place has been around since the mid 19th century," explained Dan Gasda.

But as the city below struggled, the cemetery fell into disrepair.

"We have taken away mattresses and condom wrappers, beer bottles, whisky bottles, all kinds of things that have been left around here."

Gasda is one of several volunteers who make up the St. Michael's Preservation Society.  From April through October they take care of the grounds.

"We basically cut the grass, we trim around the tombstones," added Al Barron.  "We just do a basic general clean up, just keep it presentable and respectable."

But not everyone's on board with that idea.  Over the last three months vandals have tagged and toppled tombstones twice.  The historic graves have been defaced, painting what police believe are gang symbols on monuments and headstones.

"I'm disgusted, it's just horrible to see something like this happen."

Black spray paint turns the group's storage trailer into a billboard with more scrawls. 

"I would hope that the neighborhood would take a more vested interest in what's going on in their own neighborhood and try and work together to try and get rid of it," shared Barron.

But the graffiti covering the cemetery doesn't test member's faith.

"They're not going to leave this stuff here and have a lasting monument to themselves," said Gasda.  "We're going to get rid of it."

If you're interested in helping with the clean-up or volunteering with the St. Michael's Preservation Society call Holy Infancy Church on East Fourth Street at 610-866-1121.