STOUGHTON (CBS) – Police say the man who vandalized a Stoughton cemetery and park was not sent to jail. Instead, the police took him to the hospital. That’s because they believe he suffers from mental illness, so rather than throw the book at him, they’re trying to find him help.

A statue at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery is now covered by a tarp. Stoughton Police gave us a photo showing the damage and another showing holes cut into American flags taken from veterans’ graves.

At Flaxon Veterans Memorial Park, flagpole lines are down, and so are the flags. “He had taken a knife out and cut the POW flag down and vandalized the flagpole,” said Stoughton Police Lt. John Bonney.

Stoughton Police charged a man with vandalism, including cutting holes in American flags. (Image Credit: Stoughton Police)

Lt. Bonney said the vandal hit the cemetery first. “The cemetery had significant damage to headstones and to monuments,” Lt. Bonney said.

Police said they found the culprit and charged him with several counts of vandalism. He’s someone they’ve dealt with in the past, someone they say suffers from mental health problems. So instead of looking at this as simply a criminal case, they convinced the man to let them take him to a hospital in hopes of getting him help.

It’s a problem police officers see regularly. “We seem to be doing the same thing with the same people over and over again, and there’s the promise of change and the promise of help for mental health issues, but that never seems to come,” Lt. Bonney said.

A vandalized statue in Stoughton. (Image Credit: Stoughton Police)

“We’re very proud of our police department,” said Stoughton Town Manager Robin Grimm. She showed WBZ the POW flag that was cut down in the park. That one and an American flag will be replaced and so will the flags vandalized in the cemetery.

But it’s the compassion the police showed that she finds most impressive. “They’re handling this for what it is, a very unfortunate situation with a person who needs help. And they will work to ensure that person gets the help that he needs and to ensure public safety,” Grimm said.

The town of Stoughton is planning to replace the cemetery flags Friday. Meanwhile the parish priest who oversees the cemetery has asked his congregation to pray for the alleged perpetrator.

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