Fake cemetery serves as crime deterrent

Some headstones on a small plot of land in downtown Houston are acting as a decoy
May 15, 2013 4:40:38 PM PDT
Cemeteries are seldom thought of as popular hangouts, and it's that perception that one local businessman counted on when he built a decoy aimed at keeping his property clean.

In the shadow of downtown skyscrapers, flanked by busy traffic is an old pecan tree, and in its shade are three headstones that are often overlooked by the people who walk by. Most assume the graves have been here longer than they have.

"Looks like an old cemetery maybe," one passerby said.

If it is old, longtime bail bondsman John Burns, whose business is a block away, can't recall it.

"Never saw that. I'm not very observant apparently," Burns said.

Here's the deal. It's not a real cemetery. No one's buried there, but it may be the most elaborate deterrent to vagrancy and littering ever devised.

The property owner says he's out of town but he said by phone that after years of littering and people sleeping on the corner lot, he devised the faux cemetery plan. From an adjacent parking lot, a tow truck driver saw it unfold more than a year ago.

"I seen them putting a fence up and about maybe two to three months later, the headstones are put up," said Fernando Davilla, who works in the area. "I knew what it was. I didn't see any burials or anything. There were no bodies there. But it's to keep the vagrants out of here because they were always sleeping right there."

The headstones, the property owner says, were rejects from a local monument company. He says he was unaware the names of the departed were real. He regrets that.

But the well-maintained result speaks for itself, though it leaves one of those who assumed they were walking by a real cemetery struggling for words.

"Who would try to portray that? That's crazy! He needs counseling," Michael Vallery said.

We checked with the city and while there is no official comment, because the city doesn't oversee cemeteries, we're told that commercial haunted houses do it during Halloween so why not here?

Meanwhile, there have been people jumping the fence -- but to take pictures of what they think is an old cemetery.
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