Police Continue Investigation Of Cemetery Vandalism
An act of vandalism that resulted in the toppling of 23 headstones at the St. Paul's Church Cemetery late last Tuesday or early Wednesday could have been connected to the vandalizing of three nearby Spruce Street homes, Princeton Borough Police said. It is believed, however, that the attack on the 146-year-old cemetery was not a hate crime, but simply an act of general vandalism, as indicated by the lack of graffiti markings, police said. The headstones were knocked over, with most of them otherwise unmoved and undamaged.
No arrests have been made, but if caught, perpetrators could be charged with desecration.
Though the crime is not presumed to be anti-Catholic, Borough Mayor Joseph O'Neill said he was surprised at the volume of overturned stones and by the apparent time and effort involved in pushing the large headstones over.
"It's the kind of thing that's very disturbing," he said. "The relatives and friends of people that are buried there: those are the ones that feel the hurt."
"It's an enormous lack of respect for other people and to no purpose, except I suspect someone's rage," the mayor added.
A number of parishioners have contacted the mayor, he said, urging the town and surrounding communities to be tough on those committing this sort of crime.
"I am sure that your police department is investigating this heinous act," St. Paul's parishioner Robert Sanz wrote to Mr. O'Neill in a letter dated this past Sunday, "but I beseech you to direct your chief of police to adopt the highest possible prosecutorial protocol."
St. Paul's representatives declined to comment on the incident.
Mr. O'Neill said he could not remember an incident similar to this in the Borough, though the racist fliers circulating on Jefferson Road in the fall 2003 set off alarms in the community.
Even though there may be nothing to indicate a hate crime at St. Paul's, Mr. O'Neill said the insensitivity of the act stands on its own.