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The average dwelling is a lot more secure than it was back in the 1970s, but this improvement has meant that the garden contents have become much more attractive to the thief.
Gardening and entertaining in the garden, although always popular in the UK, has reached new heights in recent years, with more than £4 billion being spent on garden plants, equipment and landscaping annually. This means there is a lot more to steal from a garden than there used to be.
Car boot sales, virtually unknown in the 1970s, have become a regular shopping jaunt for many of us in search of a bargain. Amongst the majority of honest sellers are some who use this opportunity to sell stolen property for which there was no market a few decades ago. How many times do you come across somebody selling second hand garden tools, such as spades, forks, rakes and so on and thought to yourself where on earth did he get these from (OK, I’m not pointing fingers at all sellers of garden tools as they could be the proceeds of house clearances – it was just an example!). That’s the trouble with being a retired cop; I’m always suspicious! Everyone’s eyes seem too close together (a sure giveaway). I must go and lie down.
Two men in West London used to drive around housing estates in the early hours of Sunday morning stealing hanging baskets, garden ornaments and potted plants from outside people’s houses, which they would then sell at car boot sales later the same day. Such was the reward they made from their thieving that they had kitted out the roof of the van with rails on which to hang around 70 baskets. They were eventually caught in the act and the police estimated that they were making about a £1000 at each boot sale. So good did they become that they could steal to order!
A few years ago I was lucky enough to have my garden completely landscaped. I filled it with shrubs to make it look a little like a tropical garden and bought some new garden furniture and an elephant (only joking). I had a new large shed built, which incorporates my office (where I am writing this article) and, with my experience of crime prevention, I included a lot of security improvements at the same time. Security in my garden became an issue for the first time, because I had just paid the bills for the improvements and the sheer cost suddenly hit me. Just think about the value of the stuff in my garden. The shrubs came to about £1200, the garden table and eight chairs were about £2000, I have a small granite bench at £400 and a new barbeque worth £300. I have five large carp in the pond worth about £100 each and two easily portable water features together worth about £500 so that’s nearly £5,000 sitting in the open in the garden!
Of course, like all property crime it isn’t always the monetary value that is the most concerning. Sometimes there has been a long term attachment to a particular tree or shrub, perhaps something planted by a now deceased relative or a tree planted in memory of something or someone. And in many ways a theft from the garden, especially a back garden, is very much like your home getting burgled, because someone has trespassed onto space just as private as your house.
In 1979 in Acton, West London, Mrs Smith made tea for the men working for the removal company that was clearing out her neighbour’s house. The neighbours were on holiday and although she thought it odd that they weren’t present during the move she didn’t really know them that well and put it down to the modern way that young people do things these days. Ten days later her neighbours returned from their holiday and Mrs Smith said how surprised she was that they had not simply returned to their new house. “What new house?” came the reply. My colleague, who attended the scene of the crime, described what he saw. Every room had been emptied of everything; even the light bulbs were gone. They dismantled the greenhouse, dug up the roses and took most of the contents of the shed. There was nothing left!
Crime statistics tell us that, on average, 1 in 7 households a year experience a theft from the garden. Now, take a few moments to consider your actual risks. As has already been said in Home security assessment, Burglary Risk 1 in 7 households does not mean that your home stands that risk. Depending on where you live your risk might, for example, be 1 in 25 and therefore do you really want to spend large sums of money on garden security when you might only experience 1 theft in 25 years? Your risk could be greater of course or you could have just had a crime in the garden (and that’s why you’re reading this) in which case you might want to spend some money now. Whatever your individual risks might be there are lots of things you can do that won’t cost much at all and so obviously you’ll need to do those things first. These things mainly revolve around being a bit more disciplined, such as always remembering to lock the garden tools away and lock the shed, replacing the lamp in the light fitting that hasn’t been working since last summer and so on. What I strongly suggest you do is spend a few minutes looking through this section so that you know where to start. Have you carried out the free on line Home Security Survey on this website yet? Go to Home security assessment, DIY Home security survey