MELROSE — Mayor Robert J. Dolan, Police Chief Michael L. Lyle and Human Rights Commission Director Adam LaFrance report that the Melrose Police Department is searching for three suspects who were seen tipping over six headstones at the Netherlands Cemetery early this morning.
On Thursday, July 27, at approximately 3:15 a.m., Melrose Police were dispatched to the Netherlands Cemetery Association Burial Ground, located at 38 Linwood Ave., on a report of young males vandalizing tombstones.
Upon arrival, officers spoke to a witness who said that around 3 a.m., he saw three males, likely teenage boys, kicking over tombstones at the cemetery and then fleeing the area.
Two suspects, a slender white male, between 5-feet 7-inches and 5-feet 8-inches, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a black backpack, and a slender black male, between 5-feet 7-inches and 5-feet 8-inches, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and carrying a skateboard, ran down Linwood Avenue toward Malvern Street.
The third suspect is described as a white male, with a heavy build, who was wearing a black t-shirt and eyeglasses.
“I am deeply saddened and outraged by this vandalism and potential hate crime,” Mayor Dolan said. “Cemeteries are sacred grounds. Any malicious destruction is deeply saddening and must be given the full attention of law enforcement to bring the individuals responsible to account for this horrible act. On behalf of the citizens of Melrose, we offer our deepest sympathies to the Netherlands Cemetery Association, the Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts and the individual families affected by this cowardly act.”
“To go to a sacred place in the city and act with such disrespect is disgraceful and these three suspects should be ashamed of themselves,” Chief Lyle said. “If anyone saw or heard anything early this morning in the area of the cemetery, we ask that you immediately contact police.”
The Netherlands Cemetery, formally called the Netherlands Cemetery Association and Roxbury Mutual Society Burial Ground – is the third-oldest Jewish cemetery in Massachusetts and contains about 475 interments. It was established in 1859 by a group of Dutch Jews living in Greater Boston who formed the Netherlands Cemetery Association and opened the Netherlands Cemetery for its members.
“Melrose is one community, open to all. The Melrose Human Rights Commission and the City of Melrose denounce the recent desecration of tombstones at the Jewish cemetery on Linwood Avenue and stand firmly with our Jewish family, friends and neighbors against this reprehensible behavior,” LaFrance said. “It is the latest in a string of such petty vandalism in the region and a concerning incident here in Melrose. The Commission supports the efforts of the Melrose Police Department to investigate thoroughly the incident and those involved. We encourage all residents to report such acts and to work to cultivate a community of mutual understanding and respect.”
Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call the Melrose Police Department at 781-665-1212 or the Human Rights Commission’s hotline at 781-979-4140. Residents can also submit anonymous tips through the police department’s tip line: Text MELROSE to TIP411 (847411).