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  • Subject: [cg] Theft
  • From: "Sharon Gordon" <gordonse@one.net>
  • Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004 08:10:19 -0400

In our gardens we have some occasional vandalism for the sake of vandalism
and food theft mostly at the various sites.  We had one serious incident
several years ago where a woman who gardens from a wheelchair was assaulted
and robbed.

Last year's damage and loss included:
1) Several individual fences kicked down and gates ripped off.  These were
not particularly damaged, so were reassembled.
2) One water faucet broken.  It had to be replumbled and the whole site was
without water for a month until it could be repaired.
3) Theft of two chairs from one plot.
4) Theft of garden shoes and some watering cans.  We think these were thrown
into the blackberry thicket at the edge of the gardens, but no one has been
brave enough to try to extract them.

Our ongoing theft problems include:
1) An immigrant man from a country where the men are trained to hate and
slaughter people from many other countries.  He bicycles on to the site most
days around 5am and steals 2 boxes of vegetables from 10-12 gardens per day,
straps them to his bike and rides off.  The witnesses to his theft tend to
be small elderly immigrants from various countries without cars who are
afraid to report his theft due to nonspecific death threats from his
countrymen.   One person who confronted him said he claimed was was picking
vegetables from a friend's garden.

2) A woman and her two young children.  They rob the gardens at dusk around
9pm with a clever method.  They carry two garden chairs (hmm...see #3
above).  Where fencing or a gate is only 4 feet high, the mom puts one chair
in the garden and one outside.  The children climb onto the outside chair.
The mom lifts them to the inside chair.  They rob the gardens and hand the
food back to her.  They reverse their process to get the children and chair
out of the garden.  Then go to next garden and repeat.

Both of these people do the robbing when there are no cars at the gardens,
so it's likely the thieves think they are alone.  Our board is pondering how
to handle these situations.  A few people are putting up higher fencing or
doubling the height of their gates in the meanwhile.

Last year we had an amusing reverse problem.  A tree service heard we could
use some wood chips at one of the gardens.  Pretty soon we had enough 12
high piles of wood chips to cover a substantial portion of the planet.  They
covered a good portion of the parking lot, blocked the walking paths and
overflowed into an adjacent field.  Not ever being able to catch up with the
tree service, the site manager finally resorted to putting a huge sign out
requesting no more chips.  After months of diligent shoveling the site is
about to run out of chips again, but has no clue who the bringer of chips
was to request more.

People also try to design their fencing to minimize wildlife damage.  We
have deer (sometimes entire herds coming through the gardens), ground hogs,
squirrels, birds, rodents, rabbits, and raccoons.  There are also foxes,
snakes,  and skunks which don't seem to be causing any problems.  The deer
seem mostly to be problematic in drought years, and mutterings can be heard
about having venison-and-remaining-vegetable stew, though no one has.  At
the moment my plot has a bird nest with birds that are perhaps 8-10 days
old.  A neighbor's plot had a nest of three rabbits with their eye's still
closed last time I looked.  A couple of years ago, one person had a bird's
nest in one of her tomato cages.  One garden has barred owls nesting in the
adjacent woods.  Another garden has bluebird nesting boxes with bluebirds.

In the UK as Adam said there are problems with tools disappearing at some
gardens.  Other gardens have little to no trouble.  Some people have had
success hiring teens who might be vandals to work in their gardens some, and
this seems to give quite a bit of protection.  (not sure if they get
interested enough in the garden that they want it to be safe, or they don't
want all their hard work damaged) In the UK there are also problems with
people digging up plants and taking them, or taking produce that is being
grown for competition to eliminate the competition.  Sometimes there will be
a rash of shed break ins or break in and then set the shed on fire in an
attempt to cover up the theft in a particular area.  The standard plot size
in the UK is 100 feet x 30 feet so there is often a shed or greenhouse at
one end.  Keen gardeners often get two plots and have a shed on one and a
green house on the other, so there can be quite a bit to steal in the sheds.

As for what to do about it to some degree it depends on the cause of the
theft or damage.  In general a whole site fence is a great solution.
However that makes it hard for the 99.9% of the honest people to wander
through and enjoy the gardens.  A couple of our garden sites have walking
paths through them that connect neighborhoods or neighborhoods and shopping.
One is adjacent to a hiking path and near a children's playground.  At all
of these neighbors enjoy walking through to see what is growing, and
families like riding bikes by as well.  Last week I met an interesting woman
from Ireland who wanted to see how Americans did their plots.  So the
downside to whole site fencing is that it can fence out lots of interesting
and interested people.  Adam's site has found a good solution I think in
letting in all interested people in the daytime into the front public
garden, and being more protective of the individual plots.

In the case of need for food, it might be more of a focus on getting the
thieves their own plot, and/or helping to get them food stamps and farmer's
market vouchers.

Some gardens gate their site but have a couple of days each season where
their sites are on tours so interested people can tour the gardens then.


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