Assemblyman Lentol Fights Back Against Rash of Thefts of Historical Plaques Honoring WWII Veterans, September 11th Victims

Lentol to introduce legislation that will make thieves think twice before they steal a community’s memorials
November 5, 2008

Assemblyman Joe Lentol is fighting back against thieves who have now stolen four memorial plaques from the Greenpoint Williamsburg neighborhood.

The first was a plaque commemorating September 11^th stolen from St Cecilia’s Church mere days before the anniversary; the second was stolen from Fidelity Memorial Park and honored World War II Veterans; the third was stolen from St. Francis of Paola Church and also honored World War II Veterans, and the fourth was dedicated to Father Giorgio, the pastor from Mt. Carmel Church who died not long after being injured during World War II. Assemblyman Lentol will be introducing legislation that, if passed, will not only act as a deterrent but will punish those who steal a community’s memorials.

The plaques have been stolen over the course of two weeks. The first plaque, which was donated by Assemblyman Lentol, commemorated the victims of September 11th, 2001 and specifically those members of the St. Cecilia congregation who had died on that day.

“I am horrified that anyone would dishonor the victims of 9/11 and their families in this way,” said Assemblyman Lentol. The Assemblyman vowed to replace the plaque.

“We must use this tragedy as an opportunity,” he declared. “We’ll do a whole new rededication and take the time to celebrate and remember those who died on 9/11.”

The police and others believed that the copper and brass plaque was likely stolen so that it could be sold for scrap metal. Assemblyman Lentol has had many conversations with various police officials over the issue and an investigation was launched but the odds of finding the culprits, or the plaque, seemed slim. However, when three more memorials were stolen, it became clear to Assemblyman Lentol that this was not just a random occurrence. It was time to fight back to prevent this type of horrendous act in the future.

“These are a community’s memories, how do you replace that?” asked Assemblyman Lentol. “In 1954, my father helped dedicate the Father Giorgio plaque alongside the courageous veterans who served our country in World War II. These memorials are cherished by the community and someone just took that way from us.”

Assemblyman Lentol is using his position as Chairman of the Codes Committee to introduce legislation that would change the criminal law to make it a felony to steal (grand larceny in the fourth degree) or to knowingly possess a stolen memorial item (criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree.) In addition, if the person convicted of criminal possession were a scrap metal dealer they would lose their license to operate a scrap metal dealership.

“Generally the seriousness of the crime is determined by how much what is stolen is worth. In these cases the real value is historical and sentimental. I believe the law should reflect that,” said Assemblyman Lentol. The item would need to be valued at $100 or more but all of the plaques stolen easily fall into this category. This law would be similar to the way the law gives extra weight to the thefts of religious items from a house of worship such as scrolls or bibles.

“We want to punish those who would steal a memorial but we also want to deter them from doing it in the first place,” said Assemblyman Lentol. “We are making sure that the scrap metal dealers, who knowingly buy these beloved and clearly stolen goods, face a more severe punishment and the loss of their license. By making memorials too risky to buy, hopefully we can eliminate the demand for them and thus prevent the problem,” reasoned Assemblyman Lentol.

“With this legislation we can fight back and protect this community and communities all over the state of New York from those who are so selfish and coldhearted they are robbing us of our memories and memorials just to make a couple of bucks,” declared Lentol.