Residential garden theft is on the rise. In the United States alone, millions of dollars in commercial and residential insurance claims are filed each year citing losses due to theft and vandalism. It isn't necessary to surround your property with razor wire, but for all the time, money, and hard work you invest your yard and garden, taking a few simple precautions against theft is well worth the effort.
Items most often stolen or vandalized:
Take A Visual Inventory: Use a video recorder or digital camera to record anything of value including expensive plants, garden decor, and power tools. (You should also do this with the contents of your home.) Make two hard copies of the information. Keep one at home and the other in a safe-deposit box, or wherever your keep your important personal/financial papers.
Mark Your Valuables: Discretely mark valuable items with your initials, zip code, or another distinguishing feature, to help you identify and recover your property should it ever be stolen.
Store Items Properly: Don't leave lawnmowers, power tools and other valuable items outside overnight. This is also true of ladders and wheelbarrows, which can easily be made into useful tools by thieves. When not in use, store yard and garden items in your garage or shed and out of sight.
Minimize Attention: If you have a plant or garden sculpture that is particularly valuable or important to you, avoid drawing unnecessary attention to it. For example, avoid illuminating it with outdoor lighting and display it in a location less likely to be noticed by passersby (i.e. the side yard vs. the front yard).
Fence Your Property: A fence six feet high will help deter most thieves (and also keep deer out!). If your yard is already fenced, consider raising the fence's height by topping it with lattice or a prickly bramble like dewberry vine.
Secure Windows, Doors, and Gates: Many garage thefts happen during the day. Thieves simply walk into unlocked buildings, take what they want, and are gone within minutes. Always secure your outbuildings, even if you are only going to be gone for a few minutes working in another part of the yard. Use quality padlocks rated for outdoor use. If you have widows on buildings that offer easy views to the contents stored inside, cover the glass with wood or paint to obscure the view.
Bolt Things Down: Grills, patio furniture, and garden statuary can be bolted down, or secured to immovable objects using wire cables with locks. Large containers can be cemented in place at the base or with wall anchors. Because heavy objects are more difficult to move, adding large stones at the bottom of large containers may offer at least a small degree of protection.
Use Prickly Plantings: Thorny hedges and prickly plantings can be a good compliment to other crime prevention measures. They also provide extra benefits such as producing food (berries) for local wildlife, and providing the garden with colorful foliage. Use them around the perimeter of your yard, around garden statuary, or place them strategically below vulnerable windows. Try Barberry (Berberis), Hawthorne (Crataegus), Firethorn (Pyrachanthus), Holly (Ilex), or Rambling roses (Rosa Rugosa).
Set An Alarm: If you have an existing home security system, consider having the service extended to garages and other outbuildings.
Add Lighting: Most thieves do not like to risk being seen. Make it difficult for them to get close your valuables by installing landscape lighting and motion-sensor security lights to overlook your garden.
Check Your Insurance Coverage: Ask your agent if your homeowner's policy covers losses to your yard and garden. If it doesn't, find out how much it would cost for additional coverage.
Partner With Your Neighbors: A Neighborhood Watch is an organized group of neighbors who help prevent crime by observing and reporting suspicious activities in their community to local law enforcement. For more information on how you can start a Neighborhood Watch visit www.nnwi.org.
About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com
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