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Re: Theft 101

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Theft 101
  • From: "Diana Yuen" <imoux1@hotmail.com>
  • Date: Tue, 08 Jun 2004 22:09:03 -0700

Hi all,

I've been a member of a moderate sized community garden in Seattle for a little over a year now. My garden faces a busy arterial, both in pedestrian and vehicle traffic. This side is fenced off with a 8-foot (?) tall chain-link fence. The garden is accessible by entering the property of the community center on which the garden resides. The remaining perimeter is surrounded by a shorter, more decorative wooden fencing.

We and many of the other gardens in the P-Patch program have experienced some degree of theft. I can only attest to theft I have experienced or heard of personally. I've had a number of random items stolen - a 20 lb squash, a wooden board, and some fancy metal stakes - this is surprisingly minimal considering how much traffic travels through this area. Others at my garden have also had stakes, decorative nicknacks, and food items stolen on occasion.

Generally, it seems that theft occurs b/c there's an opportunity - someone is walking by, sees something they want and takes it. I don't think it's rampant enough to say that there are theives who come by regularly. It's also hard to say why it is that people take what they take, and hence find ways to combat it.

Some of the ways we have attempted to curb theft and vandalism have been to post signs and keep community tools in locked sheds. Gardeners are encouraged not to place anything of value in their plots and to arrange pathways such that it's difficult to enter a plot. Additionally, I like to grow theft-prone plants behind less desirable or recognizable plants so that they are obscured from view, and grow less recognizable varieties of common vegetables.

It's always disappointing to find that something has been stolen. I hope you find a way to tackle the theft your garden has been experiencing!


----Original Message Follows----
From: jay sokolovsky <jsokolov@stpt.usf.edu>
To: Adam36055@aol.com
CC: dboekelheide@yahoo.com, community_garden@mallorn.com
Subject: Re: [cg] Theft 101
Date: Tue, 08 Jun 2004 22:49:51 -0400

It would be interesting to hear from gardeners in places like Seattle where many of the community gardens have no locked fences. What are the factors that allows these places to get away with this.


Jay Sokolovsky

Adam36055@aol.com wrote:

Dear Don,

People steal. Don't feel particularly bad that it's happening in a garden - in the UK, for example, plant & tool theft are huge, if you believe the press reports, largely because gardening is so popular and people will buy up the swag, or plant a looted perennial that they've bought hot because it's cheap.

Yes, fences are essential. When we started the Clinton Community Garden in the heart of Hells Kitchen in 1979, we walked in on a Beirut-like urban moonscape with rubble, rusted cars, expended bullets and a dead junkie drawing flies. What we saved, we fenced, watched - kinda easy because there are tenements all around the garden, and worked to keep secure.

We still have theft - just last week someone stole some new patio chairs the same day they were donated, fer chrissakes, but we have managed to preserve our tools and stuff by following some basic procedures.

1) Fence the garden completely around it's perimeter if you don't have secure brick walls at least on a few sides.

2) Have a few rules but clear, and post the signage throughout the garden and up front. Let it be known among the garden rank-and-file that there have been thefts, they hurt the garden, and you'd really appreciate it if they have any ideas about how to make the garden more secure. And listen to what people say. And say that, "Heck, garden shears come home in my pocket too. But we have to remember to bring them back."

The idea is to get folks conscious and aware, without getting them paranoid. It's just learning to be being careful with garden property.

3) Let it be known to your neighbors that there have been thefts and let local law enforcement know about it too - The line, " And we're raising food for seniors, the homeless, etc.., " gets the idea across that there is some significance to what is being stolen. You're on the cop's beat, they should come by and say, "hi."

4) At night time, or when there are no gardeners in the gardener lock it. I'm an 8 foot fence fan - it takes effort to climb and eight foot fence and climbing one takes some effort and is pretty obvious.

5) At the Clinton Community Garden, we have a shed for tools, that is in the back locked garden area. There is an unlocked lean-to attached to the shed with the more replacable tools, and locked areas in the main shed where we keep beekeeping equipment, the chipper shredder and the more expensive tools. Access to these areas are on a "need to use" basis and is controlled by key.

6) All garden tools are marked with a hideous yellow paint, and have the legend, "Clinton Community Garden," permanently marked on them." There is no question that they are our tools.

7) Most imporantly, you have to foster a sense of real ownership of the garden in everyone who uses it - that the land, the tools, the plants are all owned in common and that theft really is an assault on everyone.

I'm sorry that the wands, gazing balls, a decorations have been stolen - and that someone is enjoying them in private, or has tried to sell them. You're not going to be able to stop theft completely, but by keeping stuff secure, marking tools and garden property, and creating a sense of ownership in all of your gardeners and partners, then you have a chance at keeping your garden from "walking away."

Adam Honigman
Clinton Community Garden <http://www.clintoncommunitygarden.org/>

We're just starting to get theft. Small stuff -
watering wands, gazing balls and other garden
decorations, that kind of thing. No tools or hoses
taken - yet. We are partly fenced (a company has
offered to make us a nice 'real' fence, but there's
not a clear time frame), the site is on a busy road in
a farmer's field, surrounded by development but with
no residence close.

Anyone experienced something similar? Any ideas about
who the culprits might be, given the pattern of theft?
If we don't fence, what can we do? If we do get a
fence, any recommendation on type? Key protocols?

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