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Cemetery Preservation
Vandalism & Destruction

Neither the South Carolina Department of Archives and History nor any other state agency enforces cemetery laws. This responsibility belongs to county and municipal law enforcement officials.

What to Do if a Cemetery is Being Willfully Damaged

If you learn that a cemetery is being vandalized, disturbed, or destroyed, contact local law enforcement authorities immediately. State laws make it a felony to destroy or desecrate burial grounds and establish a legal framework for moving abandoned cemeteries when necessary. The responsibility for enforcing state cemetery laws belongs to the county sheriff or local police department. Because local authorities may not be as familiar with the details of cemetery statutes as you are, be prepared to inform them of pertinent laws.

After contacting law enforcement, notify other interested groups, such as local historical organizations and the local newspaper. Prosecute offenders who are caught and publicize the arrests. Suits can also be filed in civil court to seek compensation for damages.

Discouraging Vandalism


The following suggestions may help discourage vandalism:

  • Ask the local law enforcement agency to put your cemetery on its patrol routes. Ask their advice when planning any security measures.
  • Ask the neighbors to watch for suspicious activity in the area and to report to the police or sheriff if they see any.
  • Maintain the property. Vandals are often attracted to property that appears neglected.
  • Protection devices like fences, lights, and alarms may help. Make sure they are in working order. Fences should keep livestock out of rural cemeteries and deter vandals, while allowing people to see in. High, solid fences can hide illegal activities.
  • Consider posting rules and regulations to show that the cemetery is maintained.