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Dearborn police are investigating after dozens of headstones were found knocked over at Northview Cemetery early Tuesday morning, an incident that police believe may have occurred Monday night.

It was 9:20 a.m. when the damage was noticed and a 911 call was made by a groundskeeper at the cemetery, said Lt. Gary Mann of the Dearborn Police Department. Northview Cemetery runs along West Outer Drive and is west of North Military Drive.

Some 37 headstones were damaged in all, said Jim Toms, superintendent of the cemetery. Toms said that in his 31 years at the cemetery, this is the third such instance of vandalism he's encountered. But this is the worst one.

"It happens to every cemetery once in a while, but nothing quite like this," Toms said as he took a break from working to put vandalized headstones back upright. In the day since the vandalism was discovered, he's put 18 of them back up, and was still working as of early Wednesday afternoon.

"I won't leave them down very long, I know that," Toms said.

Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad in a statement Wednesday called the cemetery vandalism the "“most irreverent to our community and will never be tolerated,”

“We are urging the public to come forward and provide information that can help bring those responsible to justice,” the chief said.

What happens from here, in terms of a more complete fix, he could not immediately say.

Toms said the damaged headstones are all along West Outer Drive, within the first three to four rows. He believes that route was taken so the vandals could jump the fence and exit quickly.

The cemetery, which was incorporated on July 11, 1883, has some 9,000 people interred, including George Peppard of "A-Team" fame. Peppard's parents are buried there was well. His gravesite was not one of the ones affected, but was in the area.

“We’re out there shaking the bushes and looking for evidence now,” Mann said Wednesday, and hoping to recover video evidence, if any exists.

Toms hopes the vandals will be found, and punished.

"I’d like to see them go in front of a judge; that'll teach them a lesson," Toms said. "It’s just so bad, what they've done."

Anyone with information is asked to call the Dearborn Police Department at (313) 943-2241. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP.

jdickson@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed to this report.

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