Police have recovered most of the brass vases stolen from a Portland cemetery over the past two weeks with the help of a Sanford scrap dealer who is also a newly elected town councilor.

Workers at Brooklawn Memorial Cemetery initially reported that 60 vases, worth a total of about $12,000, were taken from Nov. 7 to Nov. 13. They later discovered another 16 missing.

Fred Smith, who owns JMS Cleaning on River Street in Sanford, was alerted by friends who saw news reports Tuesday about the thefts and he told police about a man who had sold him 31 of the vases Monday. Smith sent one of his workers to New Hampshire to retrieve the 31 vases, which he had already sold to a larger company.

“With their cooperation, we went through all their boxes of brass. We were lucky to recover 31 of them,” he said. “A week later, they probably would have been imported by India,” a major brass market, he said.

The man returned and tried to sell Smith more of the vases. Police were on alert and arrested him and confiscated several more vases.

“I have a zero tolerance for theft,” Smith said. “If you steal it, we don’t want it and you will be arrested.”

Stealing metal always costs the victims more than the small amounts of money the thief gets from selling them, Smith said.

“The value of the 31 vases to the 31 victims is way more than the 12 bucks apiece the vases were worth” as scrap, he said.

The total cost to replace the stolen vases was more than $12,000, police said.

Police have not identified the suspect because he has not yet been charged. He remains in custody in York County Jail in Alfred on unrelated charges.

Police have now recovered 48 of the stolen vases.

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com