Police arrested a man in Alta Vista Cemetery where he is accused of removing wire wreath hangers from gravesites.
Brian T. Reeves, whose age was not available Wednesday, was charged Monday with defacing trees, flowers or other property as well as using a cemetery roadway for something other than visitation.
Gainesville Police Lt. Floyd Canup found Reeves during a stop at the city-owned burial grounds, according to the officer's incident report.
He said he noticed a blue Ford Ranger truck driving through the cemetery around 10 p.m., after the regular operating hours.
The officer said he stopped the driver, spotted the wire hangers in the back of Reeves' truck and asked what they were doing there.
Reeves said he collected the stands for his aunt who owns a flower shop, according to the report.
Canup called the woman, who acknowledged they collect the wreath hangers. People typically throw them away, she told the officer.
"This seemed odd to me so I asked her if the holders were sold to the people who purchased the wreaths for the funeral. She said yes but they usually threw them away so the suspect just went and got them," Canup wrote.
Reeves was taken into police custody shortly after he said the hangers were positioned on their sides near the graves, as though about to be thrown away, Canup wrote.
"The holders still had fresh mud caked on the legs so they could not have been lain on the side," the report said.
Crimes are rare at the 75-acre cemetery off Pearl Nix Highway where nearly 15,000 people are buried, said Vince Evans, the city's field services manager who works at the cemetery.
"We had a couple of kids come through seven or eight years ago and topple markers. We set those back up," Evans said.
"These really were not in good shape. They pay about $2 a piece for them. It's a lot of effort for very little reward ... when the economy gets bad, people are just looking to produce a few dollars any way they can."
Ordinarily the gates to Alta Vista are locked around dark, the cemetery's closing time. However, an entry gate is in the process of being repaired, so there was easier access to the property, Evans said.