Security upgrades proposed to catch vandals at historic Wallingford cemetery

WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– An historic cemetery in Wallingford may be getting some security upgrades. It’s to keep vandals out of the Center Street Cemetery. The cemetery association is talking to the town council tonight. Our cameras were there today to see the damage. The hope is, if there are security cameras there all the time, the damage will stop.

The Center Street Cemetery dates back to 1683, so they are trying to protect history. Specifically, protect it from vandals who keep breaking headstones. The whole history of this town is here. Several towns, actually.

“At one time, the Center Street Cemetery buried people from 5 towns in Connecticut and we have the signer of the Declaration of Independence, Lyman Hall’s original monument is here,” said cemetery superintendent Robert Devaney. Devaney knows the history and, unfortunately, he’s had to repair a lot of it. Over the past few years, vandals have knocked over and broken dozens of headstones. The damage is estimated at something like $35,000.

How to make that stop is the topic of Tuesday night’s town meeting. The cemetery is run by an association that is going to be presenting its security plan to the town council Tuesday night. This cemetery is really the centerpiece of downtown Wallingford. A lot of New England towns were laid out like this, then turned those cemeteries into the town green. Wallingford just kept burying people here. For 333 years. So there is a lot of history to protect.

“At this point, it’s come to a head and we’re trying to find some sort of way of having some sort of security cameras here in the cemetery, so they’ll track anybody who comes in here after dark or even during the day,” Devaney said.

The cameras would be motion activated. The head of the Center Street Cemetery Association, Peter Gouveia, said that the money for the cameras has been in the budget for three years. The problem is, the cemetery was never wired for power. Wallingford has its own town-run power company called, simply, the Electrical Division. A crew from the Electrical Division was doing work on lines right next to the cemetery today. Gouveia said the holdup is with the Electrical Division.

With the right wiring, and the right cameras, the hope is they can catch whoever keeps damaging these stones. Those vandals are disrespecting the town’s history, all the veterans buried there, and all the families who have loved ones buried there. It’s now up to the town council to take action at a meeting tonight.

“At tonight’s meeting, we’re going to discuss getting the cameras, getting the job done, and finding a way to put the money together and make it happen,” Devaney said.

Using technology is the best chance they have of stopping the vandalism. The cemetery gates are largely ornamental, and the wall that surrounds the cemetery is less than 6 feet high, and its high-tech feature is the pointy stones at the top.

Anything that happens would be up to the town council, because the cemetery is town land, and the power company is owned by the town. If you want to speak out, the meeting starts at 6:30 in the council chambers of Wallingford Town Hall.

 

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