updated 7/20/2009 12:31:49 PM ET 2009-07-20T16:31:49

Thieves are preying on mourners at a cemetery in Southern California.

Purses, laptops and other valuables are being taken from the unlocked cars of grief-stricken people attending mortuary and graveside services at Rose Hills Memorial Park in suburban Whittier.

There have been 26 thefts from cars at the 1,400-acre hillside graveyard so far this year. There were 11 in all of 2008.

Rose Hills officials and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are warning people to lock cars and leave valuables at home. Deputies are now patrolling the cemetery and distributing warning fliers.

Rose Hills visitor services manager Richard Hardy notes the cemetery is in the sprawling Los Angeles urban area and "whatever happens outside, happens inside a cemetery."

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