Johannesburg allows alarms on tombstones to curb theft


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Gianluigi Guercia

Johannesburg City Parks has announced it will allow families to install alarms on their relatives’ graves to curb tombstone theft.

Some 20 tombstones have been stolen from the Avalon and West Park cemeteries in the past few weeks, said Alan Buff, who oversees the city's cemeteries. Several stonemasons have been charged with stealing stones from the Avalon graveyard.

Memorial Alert, a company that implants transmitters in tombstones, headstones, statues and vases, is first in line to offer tombstone technology to mourners. The transmitters sound an alarm and alert customers by SMS when their family grave markers are moved or bumped.

"We have entered into a service level agreement with Johannesburg City Parks,” company director Mark Pringle said. “We plan to launch and market the product soon and are hoping to start installing transmitters in the Avalon and West Park cemeteries by January.

The transmitters also act like a car tracking device, Buff told Agence France-Presse. "We will be able to immediately locate the area where a tombstone has been moved and we will be able to track it down,” he said.

Another company, Bataung Memorial Tombstones, which sells technology to help families locate graves, is also developing a microchip-based security system for tombstones.

"It is not just about the money,” CEO Lebohang Khitsane told Times Live. “Families are devastated because it is like their loved one's memory has been tarnished.”

The city's 36 public cemeteries currently have perimeter sensors and are patrolled by security guards, yet on average between 15 and 20 marble or granite tombstones are stolen a month.

Along with the new technology, it will also be possible for families to take out insurance against theft and vandalism of tombstones.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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