The Crime Prevention Website


Property that is regularly stolen from gardens

If you study the table below you will see that the most common stolen property comes from the front garden and most of it is very portable.  In order to prevent ourselves becoming victims of theft we could simply not have nice plants at the front of the house and make sure everything is planted in or chained to the ground.  I don’t know about you, but that solution just isn’t a solution.  But I do think it makes sense to consider very carefully what we should plant to the front of the dwelling and how we might make items less portable. The following paragraphs make suggestions as to what you can do. 

Plants and property most commonly stolen from the garden  


Most Commonly Taken


Potted shrubs and trees


Black Bamboo



Japanese Maples



and any other plants that would look attractive on a stall at a car boot sale

Normally taken from the front of the house during the night, but have also been lifted over garden gates from the back or side garden

Statuary and sculptures

Mostly smaller figures and sculptures


Very large and heavy statues and sculptures have been stolen to order using lifting equipment and vehicles

Hanging baskets

All types

Almost always from the front of the dwelling

Trees and shrubs planted in the ground

Phormiums , which are quite easy to dig up

New Zealand Tree Ferns  Dicksonia Antarctica

Newly planted trees and specimen shrubs

Recently laid turf

Mostly taken from the front of a dwelling

Plants often still have the plant labels on them

It is often very obvious to see that a plant has only recently been planted

Trees and all other plants account for about a quarter of property stolen from gardens

Ponds and water features

Fish, particularly koi carp

Pool pumps

Large urns and copper tree water features

Not all carp are taken by herons!


All types and particularly York stone

Mostly taken from the front of a dwelling



Electric tools

Hand tools

Nearly always from insecure outbuildings

Hand tools often used to break into the house


Wooden barrels

Garden furniture

Ornamental plant boxes

Swimming pool pumps


Garden furniture in particular is expensive to replace

See Bicycle security for further advice


Statuary and Sculptures

Some of these items run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds in value and many of them have been in the family for years and so there is a great deal of sentimental attachment.  Even the largest and heaviest statues and sculptures are stolen by thieves who are often stealing to order. Consider some of the following measures to prevent the thefts:

  • If you are thinking about purchasing a new statue or sculpture ask the sellers to keep the information about the sale confidential.   Don’t unwittingly advertise the fact that you have a valuable sculpture in gardening publications.

  • If it is going to be placed to the front of the home place the item in clear view of the house or a main road so that attempts to steal it may be seen.

  • Consider placing the item in the centre of a pond or within a cordon of soft earth to make it more of a struggle to steal it.

  • Have experts permanently fix the item onto a purpose made concrete foundation block.  This might require drilling a hole into the base of the item and cementing it onto a metal rod protruding from the concrete block.

  • For smaller items consider the use of a plant anchor (see below)

  • For very valuable items consider the use of electronic security devices such as alarm detectors and CCTV.

  • Make sure that the item is permanently marked or tagged so that it can be traced back to you, should it be stolen and subsequently recovered.  Take detailed photographs next to a scale rule so that its size and height can be realised.  Take pictures of damaged and worn areas and make descriptive notes.  (See  Property identification – marking, tagging and tracking, Methods of property marking and tagging

Hanging baskets

Hanging baskets are a commonly stolen item, especially from the front of the house and even more commonly stolen from outside of shops and houses that immediately front onto a street.

The cheapest way of making them a little more difficult to steal is to thread a heavy gauge galvanised steel wire through the basket, the supporting chains and onto the bracket.  Better still purchase purpose made security baskets.  These comprise a basket with a centrally located steel rod, which is place over the wall bracket.  A padlock is then inserted through the end of the wall bracket and stops the basket from being simply unhooked.  Make sure that the wall bracket is well fixed into the wall; through the bricks rather than into a mortar joint.  

Trees and shrubs

Newly planted trees and shrubs are stolen on a regular basis, because the clues are there to be seen.  The soil around the new plant looks like it has been freshly disturbed and maybe the plant label hasn’t been removed.  There are a number of measures you can take to reduce your chances of a theft. See below: 

Removing the signs

Remove evidence of recently disturbed soil by washing down paths and drives and placing bark around the planting area and a couple metres either side of the new plant.  Remove the plant label. 

Using chicken wire

Dig a hole for the root ball and then dig a larger, slightly shallower hole around the outside, so it looks like an upturned cowboy hat.  Lay a sheet of ‘chicken wire’ inside the larger hole.  Make two cuts across the centre of the chicken wire and fold up the wire to allow the root ball to pass through into the smaller hole that you have dug for the plant.  Back fill the hole for the plant. Push the chicken wire back down on top of the root ball and use gardening wire to tie up the cut chicken wire, so only the stem of the plant is now coming through the hole in the wire.  Now push the chicken wire firmly into the bottom of the larger diameter hole and over fill with the soil.  Water thoroughly.  This recipe for protecting a newly planted shrub has been passed down from crime prevention officer to crime prevention officer.  I have never tried it and so I don’t know how effective it might be.  Do let me know. 

Plant anchors

There is also a range of plant anchors specifically designed to protect new shrubs and trees.  These consist of a high tensile steel cable which loops around the base of the plant and is attached to an anchoring device which is driven deep into the ground.  The design is such that if you try to pull it out the hinged anchor tip digs into the soil around it and won’t come out; a bit of a problem if you put it in the wrong place!  However, these things generally work quite well and have to be dug out of the ground with the plant thereby buying you time.

For large specimen trees and shrubs it is possible to anchor them into the ground using three or even four plant anchors.  Once the plant has been placed into its planting hole corrosion resistant steel bands are placed over the top of the root ball.  These bands are attached to the plant anchors, each of which is driven into undisturbed ground.  This action will tighten the metal bands and pull the plant down into its planting hole.  Apart from making it difficult to steal it will also help prevent the tree or shrub from being blown around in the wind.  ‘Wind rock’ can impair the development of a plant and sometimes kill it.

Similar systems using metal bands and plant anchors, which are available at some garden centres and websites, can be used to secure potted trees and shrubs to the ground.

RFID Microchips

It is now possible to implant RFID microchips into rare and valuable trees and shrubs and Bonsai.  RFID chips are the size of a grain of rice and require no power supply. They are each uniquely coded and can be read by scanners, which are held by the police and other bona fide organisations.  See this website's DIRECTORY for products specifically designed for use with shrubs and trees.

True story

Early one spring in Reading the local police were being interviewed by a newspaper reporter about a spate of garden thefts in the area.  Four households had suffered the loss of several newly planted shrubs from their front gardens.  The Inspector warned local people to keep their eyes peeled and be vigilant so he could “nip it in the bud”  

Newly laid turf

Often laid in rolls and often stolen like that, the advice is to slice it up immediately is has been laid and make sure that you order it from a reputable company in the first place! 

True Story

Mrs Primrose had new turf laid on her large open planned front garden on the Tuesday and by the Thursday morning it had all been stolen.  The thieves simply rolled it back up and loaded it onto the back of their open back truck to use for somebody else's garden.  

Ponds and fish

It is very difficult to offer advice for protecting a pond, because everyone’s pond is different and the value of the fish swimming around in them can vary enormously.  So unless I hear something from you to the contrary I will assume that you keep Koi Carp, which are very expensive indeed and you are prepared to spend a fair amount of money to protect them.  I know for many that even the common goldfish can become a much loved pet.  I know how I felt earlier this year when Harold the Heron had three of my more mature specimens out of my pond.  Now I can replace a goldfish for a couple of pounds, but when it comes to a large Koi we could be talking £500 and more in some instances.  So what can be done? 

Grilling the pond (You must be kidding!)

If you have a small, but well stocked pond with several Koi and you go away on holiday from time to time then seriously consider having a grille made up, which can be laid over the pond and locked onto brackets when you go away.  This might also be useful for safety if there are young children around.  I know this seems extreme and may only be suitable for a formal and relatively small pond, but it might be worth considering.  

Microchip your valuable fish

In the same way as you can microchip your dog or your cat you can do the same to your Koi.  They may not thank you for it, but should they be stolen and subsequently recovered by the police you’ll get them back.  It’s also a good idea to take photographs of each fish as they are all differently marked.  If you have microchipped the fish then make a point of telling the potential thief that you’ve done it using a little sign next to the pond – a bit like one of those quaint ‘Keep of the Grass’ signs.  If the thief then reads the sign he might think twice. (See  Property identification – marking, tagging and tracking,  Pets and micro-chipping )

Garden furniture

Although you can chain your garden furniture to the ground or use plant anchors I simply don’t think this is practical for everyone, since you might want to move it around from time to time.  So for those of you who don’t want to do this I think the best thing to do is permanently mark the undersides with your postcode and house number, or the first few letters of the name of your house if you haven’t got a number.  (See  Property identification – marking, tagging and tracking,  Methods of property marking and tagging )  Having it close to the house will help and obviously putting it away when you’re not going to use it for a while all helps to reduce opportunity.  Everyone should mark the garden furniture by the way, even if it’s secured to the ground.

The most important thing you can do is make sure that your boundary fencing and hedging and side gate is of sufficient height and deterrent value to make it too difficult to get into or out of the garden in the first place.  (See  Preventing crime in the garden, outbuildings and garage, Garden boundaries )     


I think there is too much advice about ladders, which in my experience are not used that much by burglars to gain access to open first floor windows and flat roofs.  That said, I am now going to add to that advice in the belief that if I don’t say anything this subject will come back to haunt me!  Also, just consider how you would feel if your ladder was used to break into your neighbour’s house!    So, please don’t leave the ladder unsecured in the garden!  If you can, lock it onto some hanging brackets in a locked garage or big shed and failing that perhaps to the side wall of the house.  If you can only store the ladder vertically, keep it away from windows and to stop it from being climbed by young children attach a 2m long plank over the lower rungs.

Stone Flags and Paving

I was recently informed by Lancashire Constabulary that a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator in their county who recently had a number of flag stones stolen from him had used a stone cutter to mark the remaining ones with a large 'X' in an effort to deter another theft. I think this might help, but I wonder if etching the postcode and house number using a stencil might be even more useful. I've never tried it myself - so just a thought.

Updated July 2015