◼1,800 flags were set out in nine Monmouth County cemeteries

◼Flags were removed from the same grave sites in 2023

◼Last year's thefts were not reported to police

NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP —The case of the stolen American flags from a Monmouth County cemetery has been solved.

Commander Gary Crawford of American Legion #346 in Neptune Township said that flags were set out in six cemeteries on Sunday. The flags were removed from 20 graves at Mount Prospect Cemetery in Neptune Township sometime between Sunday and Monday, according to Crawford.

"For this to happen right before Memorial Day is an insult to our veterans. Our crew placed 1,800 flags in six cemeteries, and fired rifle volleys over nine cemeteries this past Sunday. We work hard to honor our fallen, and then we see this," Crawford said.

The thieves are not who everyone expected.

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Mount Prospect Cemetery in Neptune Township
Mount Prospect Cemetery in Neptune Township (The American Legion Department of New Jersey)

Furry thieves

Deputy Chief Michael J. McGhee told New Jersey 101.5 that after News 12 aired a report about the flags, they received a tip from a viewer in Totowa.

"We have a bunch of evidence that either squirrels and or foxes ripped the flags apart and used them to line their nest or den," McGhee said. "We sent a detective out and they said they looked at it. They said these things are kind of chopped up and that there's remnants. They weren't just pulled out of the ground."

The tipster said a similar thing happened in Totowa.

"It was some unpatriotic squirrels or small animals," McGhee said, adding that he was glad a person wasn't responsible.

Crawford told News 12 that the American Legion post has plenty of flags to replace what was taken.

The "theft" of the flags comes as World War II veteran Harry Lynch, their oldest member, recently died at the age of 99.

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