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Johannesburg turns to alarms and SMS alerts to curb tombstone thefts

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Tombstone thieves in Johannesburg, South Africa have had no trouble sneaking by security guards, so cemeteries have begun looking to a new solution: embedded security chips that will sound an alarm if a tombstone is moved, reports the Associated Press. "We place a transmitter unit into the tombstone, so that it is not visible or accessible," Mark Pringle, director of the city's first approved alarm manufacturer, Memorial Alert, tells the AP. "Any unauthorized tampering activates a number of alarms." Though Pringle thinks that the alarm itself will be enough to deter thieves, the alarm will also send out text messages to the select relatives of the deceased and may also alert security partners.

Together, Johannesburg's 36 cemeteries have reportedly been seeing around 20 tombstone thefts each month. According to the AP, the marble and granite stones are often then returned to stonemasons to make a profit off of them. Memorial Alert is considering embedding actual tracking technology into its alarms in the future, but for now it's concerned about how their batteries would hold up. "This in itself should be a fair warning to the perpetrators," Pringle tells the AP. The device is set to launch in South Africa this January, though it doesn't have a price just yet. Memorial Alert has also put in for a British patent, so it could expand internationally down the road.