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Preventing garden theft

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You might be amazed by what gets stolen from gardens.

The Crime Prevention (CP) website, for example, lists everything from shrubs and trees in pots to those still planted in the ground, from paving and stonework to garden machinery and appliances, from hanging baskets to statues (with larger ones sometimes even stolen to order).

There are other, particularly high-value items, which you might keep under especially careful attention because of its vulnerability to theft or vandalism such as ride-on lawnmowers, patio heaters or plantings you might have bought in bulk.

What can you do about it?

There are many things you might do to improve the overall security of your garden and its contents:

  • thieves prefer to work in the dark, so security lighting is a great deterrent – especially if it is movement detecting, but set to allow local wildlife in and out of your garden without causing any false alarms;
  • make sure to improve the security of – and lock – any side gate;
  • put away tools and any expensive machinery into a locked garden shed or garage; and
  • don’t leave a barbeque or garden fire unattended – to avoid setting the surroundings alight.

There are other measures you might take to guard against specific risks. Since they are among some of the most commonly stolen items, for example, consider investing in special security brackets to protect your hanging baskets, or thread a heavy gauge steel wire through the hoop and around the bracket to make it more difficult to remove.

Newly planted trees and shrubs are also a target for thieves, who may be attracted to the obvious signs of their recent planting because of the freshly disturbed soil.

Deter opportunist theft, therefore, by removing labels and hiding the evidence by cleaning around any new plantings. You might even want to invest in plant anchors to secure especially valuable plants, trees, and shrubs.

It might sound rather extreme, but you can even implant a radio-frequency-identification (RFID) chip into your priceless Bonsai, other trees, or plants. It’s already in many credit cards, so the technology is well tried and tested to track everything from vehicles, animals, luggage, clothes, and shoes. Let the chip tell you where your trees or plants may have gone.

Some garden statues or sculptures may be worth hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Some may have been in your family for generations. If you are buying new, avoid advertising the fact and ensure that it is firmly fixed to a professionally made foundation block. If it is to be installed at the front of the house, put it in a prominent position, where it can be seen clearly from the road or the house itself.

Home insurance

The Consumers’ Association’s Which? magazine notes that home insurance policies typically extend to contents of your garden and outbuildings but warns that most have maximum limits of cover for such items – and these may vary widely.

If you are unsure, do check with your insurance provider about exactly what your cover entails in your garden - and for what risks, and for what amounts.

Your responsibilities

Even with home insurance and adequate and suitable cover for garden items in place, you must remember that any insurer is entitled to expect that you take every reasonable precaution to mitigate the risks of theft, loss, or damage.

That may mean keeping valuable items under lock and key when they are not in use; taking reasonable care to secure your garden against intruders (locked gates and security lighting, for example); and, maintenance and upkeep which underscores the fact that your garden is used by occupants who are also in residence in the property.

Further reading: Keeping your garden secure.