HOUSTON -

Authorities are searching for metal thieves who they say have been targeting cemeteries throughout the Houston area.

When Carroll Schillo visited her son's grave in Woodlawn Cemetery recently, she found the detachable bronze flower base on his marker was missing.

"It just really hurts you. Really gets you in the heart," Schillo told Local 2. "I think mostly I feel sorry for those people who may not know about it yet."

Cemetery operators said thieves steal the vases to sell for scrap. They said a new vase costs about $200 but estimated that it would only bring about $20 at the scrap yard. Cemetery operators said it's an industry-wide problem that costs families.

"It's a detachable item and we're seeing a lot of them missing quite frankly," said Scott Cheffey, the general manager at Woodlawn. "It could be happening right now as we're talking. Because people come to the park because they're here to visit their loved one. They can snatch them and be gone."

Cheffey said he and other managers are looking for the answer. His cemetery has surveillance cameras, crews watching during the day, and locked gates at night.

A bill before the Texas Legislature would make it illegal for scrap yard owners to knowingly buy stolen metal. Cemetery operators said that would include the stolen vases.