SACO — Charlie Davis crouched over a headstone, bracing himself against the biting wind as he fastened a fresh wreath to the spot marking the final resting place of his parents and grandparents in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Every year at Thanksgiving, the Old Orchard Beach man places a simple evergreen wreath on the grave, but this year he was forced to replace it after the first wreath was stolen, along with at least 30 others that had been placed on headstones throughout the cemetery.

“I just don’t understand it,” Davis said, shaking his head as he recalled driving into the cemetery on Monday to check on his family plot and discovering the wreath was gone. “I just felt empty. I can’t imagine anyone doing that.”

Saco police are investigating after a family that was repeatedly targeted by thieves used a hidden camera to capture a video of a woman removing wreaths from another grave last week. The video, posted on the police department’s Facebook page and shared with local media, drew harsh comments from people decrying the act and questioning what kind of person would steal wreaths meant to memorialize the dead.

“It’s pretty low to be stealing Christmas decorations from a cemetery,” Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Holland said.

Police and cemetery officials say the wreaths began disappearing last week, soon after they were placed on the graves. Most of the wreaths were taken from stones near the mausoleum, which is next to Beach Street in a relatively open area.

Paul Tate, the cemetery superintendent, said people pay $25 for wreaths that are placed on headstones by cemetery employees. They placed 400 wreaths on Dec. 2 and 3, and soon after began receiving calls questioning why some were missing.

“After the fifth phone call, we know something was wrong,” said Joan Bergeron, the Laurel Hill secretary who has fielded dozens of calls since last week. She said callers are upset by the idea that someone would steal from their late relatives.

Tate said one family had set up a remote video camera after flowers were repeatedly taken from a headstone last summer. A video the family gave police last week shows a woman driving a black Ford Explorer pulling into the cemetery, walking to a headstone and looking around before removing a large wreath. Joannie Allison, who lives in Massachusetts, said her younger sister put the camera in the cemetery to try to catch the person who was taking arrangements off their parents’ headstone. Allison said her sister recently made an elaborate evergreen spray and was devastated when it was stolen almost immediately after it was placed on the headstone last week.

“I’m heartbroken,” she said. “My sister, she doesn’t miss a holiday. She put her heart into that spray.”

Tate said Laurel Hill has experienced occasional thefts – usually of flowers during the summer – but has never seen such extensive thievery.

“We’re disgusted by it. It’s awful,” he said. “To me, the thieves are scum.”

Laurel Hill is a popular spot for walkers, and police hope people who visit the cemetery regularly may be able to provide valuable tips for detectives.

Holland said two detectives have been assigned to the case and are following several leads generated by the video. The wreaths reported stolen are valued at a total of about $800, so anyone charged with the thefts is likely to face a misdemeanor charge, he said.

Holland said it is too soon in the investigation to determine if more than one person was involved in stealing the wreaths.

Since the video was posted online over the weekend, it has been viewed thousands of times and drawn hundreds of comments from people outraged by the thefts, Holland said.

“The public is taking a harsh stand on this,” he said. “People can’t understand it. Quite frankly, they shouldn’t understand it, because it doesn’t make any sense.”

Davis, the man who was replacing the wreath stolen from his parents’ graves, said he hopes police find the person behind the thefts and get them whatever help they may need.

“I think someone has to be in pretty bad shape to do something like this,” he said.

Anyone with information regarding the woman on the video or the wreath thefts from the cemetery is urged to contact the Saco Police Department at 284-4535.