HAMMOND | The City Council imposed new security requirements for the city's cemeteries Monday after problems at Oak Hill Cemetery.
Council members unanimously adopted the new rules, which require the city's cemeteries to post hours and lock gates at closing. Councilman Anthony Higgs, D-3rd, said he's confident his proposal will curb vandalism and unwarranted visitors at Oak Hill.
"The reality of it is throughout our city we need to make sure that our dearly beloved that have gone to be with the Lord are protected," Higgs said, "and people aren't vandalizing and doing things that aren't suitable at our city's cemeteries."
Higgs said he's received reports of people hanging out at the historical cemetery at night.
North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan, whose office is working to take over the cemetery, said gates to Oak Hill are locked at night, and he has instituted hours. Once the township gains ownership, Mrvan said crews will repair damaged portions of the cemetery's fence.
"Once we have ownership, we will do everything we can to secure the grounds and the total perimeter," Mrvan said.
Under the ordinance, only employees can remain in the cemeteries after closing. People violating the ordinance face fines up to $2,500.
Councilwoman Janet Venecz, D-at large, said she received a complaint of kids partying and walking around with lanterns at Oak Hill. Venecz said she hopes the ordinance will preserve the work Mrvan's office has done to clean up the cemetery.
The township is working to take over the cemetery because of poor maintenance, piles of discarded headstones and human bones believed to have been exhumed from old graves.
"I would hate to see kids over there destroying something," Venecz said. "This is 2012. We are confronted with so many safety issues, and we need to address them."