FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — For weeks, no one could figure out how cemetery visitors were becoming burglary victims.
But now a Long Island woman is under arrest for allegedly targeting vulnerable families, as they prayed near gravestones, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.
It is a difficult time for families when they honor loved ones at grave sites. They leave their vehicles unattended, while watering flowers or spreading ashes.
“My grandmother passed right before Christmas and we are just putting her to rest,” cemetery visitor Garrison Manne told McLogan on Tuesday.
The Mannes, who live in Connecticut, were among those to receive word from Long Island cemetery officials — at both Saint Charles and Pinelawn Memorial Park — to lock their car.
Police said Tiffany Radford, a 30-year-old from Farmingdale, has been charged with befriending grieving families, and, when their backs were turned, walking up to open windows and snatching cash and other valuables.
“That’s a disgrace, absolute disgrace,” Garrison Manne said.
Radford and her family declined comment.
“She’s a young girl, has a very nice boyfriend, lives with her mother. I am very surprised,” neighbor Rosa Lopez said.
Others said they thought Radford was driving to work each day — not to nearby cemeteries.
“They’ve always been good neighbors,” one person said.
“I am in shock. Unbelievable,” another added.
According to police, Radford made almost daily pilgrimages to Farmingdale cemeteries to stake out and target vulnerable families.
McLogan spoke to the Zamores of Westchester County. When asked if she locked her car, Elaine Zamore said, “I would never think of that. You saw me. I got out of my car and came to put stones on the graves.”
“Obviously, there is some kind of desperation if she has to do it, especially in a place like this,” Beverly Zamore added.
Police said it appears Radford is a heroin addict, and may have stolen the cash to feed her habit.
Attempts to reach Radford’s attorney were unsuccessful, but before making bail she denied the thievery charges, McLogan reported. Her arraignment is scheduled for next month.
Police said the cemetery thefts occurred over a three-month period and are asking any other victims to come forward. Anyone with information is asked to call First Precinct Crime Section officers at 631-854-8132. Anyone with additional information asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.