Margaret Grainger doesn’t mind the hour drive to visit Scarborough’s Pine Hills cemetery where her parents are buried. Her move from Scarborough to Richmond Hill in recent years has not impeded her monthly trips, during which she lays flowers on the graves of her loved ones and takes a moment of silence at Birchmount Road and St. Clair Avenue.
The only inconvenient part of her visits is the fact that she feels unsafe coming alone anytime outside of busy, daylight hours.
“After the assault here a while back, I’ve definitely changed my visiting habits,” she said. “I’ve also seen a lot of flowers stolen off of graves and other vandalism like that, which makes me question what kinds of people come on to the grounds.”
The assault that Grainger speaks of occurred in June of last year, when a 61-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by a stranger while visiting a the grave of a relative in the cemetery.
Pirjo Stitt, who frequents her father’s grave at nearby Resthaven Memorial Gardens, shares the same sentiment. She visits the grounds on Kingston Road once every few months.
“People have taken or defaced memorials left on graves around here,” she said. “When my father first passed and I came around more often, sometimes the flowers or mementos I had left would be gone within a week.”
Stitt also said she prefers to come during the day, and tries to bring a family member with her so she’s not alone. The attack last year is part of the reason for her caution.
Mike, the manager at Resthaven, said that to his knowledge, there hasn’t been any vandalism or similar problems lately. But, he said they’ve made some changes in the past year to up safety measures.
“We stepped up our own security since [the assault at Pine Hills],” he said. “We’ve increased our patrols in the evening.”
He doesn’t think the Pine Hills attack or memorial defacements in local cemeteries are a problem exclusive to Scarborough as a region, but that it could be related to how properties like Pine Hills are designed.
“That particular cemetery is designed in such a way that is conducive to people hiding,” he said. “Certain properties … the nature of the design sometimes leads to unsavory people hanging out.”
Despite the lack of recent troubles, both Grainger and Stitt said they will be staying wary while visiting the graves of loved ones.