Community Gardens are wonderful places for city residents to come together in a healthy past-time that is good for them and the planet. Sadly, theft of produce does happen.
In 2016, we formed a project team to look at what – and if – feasible solutions exist.
It is unlikely we will ever be able to stop all theft from community gardens. Farmers experience theft of produce from their private property, as do homeowners from their private yards. However we have identified a number of actions for us, gardeners, and the City of Richmond to move forward on.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Richmond RCMP – 604-278-1212. Theft is a criminal offense, and it will be at their discretion about how to follow up. They do appreciate reports as it lets them track crime rates in Richmond neighborhoods.
- Us, using the web form below. Please use the form below rather than emailing as we do receive a high volume of reports, and this form allows us to easily track this valuable data. We are not RCMP, so are not able to follow up to specific theft reports.
Can we install cameras, or fake cameras, to catch the thieves?
No. This is typically the first suggestion we hear, and we’ve looked into it closely in collaboration with City staff. In addition to the cost, installing cameras in public places violates privacy laws. While fake cameras would cost less and avoid the privacy issues, they instill a false sense of security for gardeners who may think they are being protected.
Can we put locked fences or gates around the gardens to keep thieves out?
No. Locked gates in public parks are not an option. We are, however, exploring a variety of fencing, gates, and other border defining options.
What can the community gardeners do to address theft?
- Try planting less visible crops such as roots, or crops that people may not recognize such as yellow tomatoes
- Get to know their garden neighbors by name, and watch out for unfamiliar faces
- Keep their garden well maintained, so it really looks loved
- Dust plants with flour: to thieves it may look like pesticides (but don’t actually use pesticides!)
- Consider creating a public donation box. “If you can’t beat ‘em, feed ‘em.” Thieves may just be hungry citizens.
- Be active in the garden, especially around harvest time. Consider setting up watch shifts.
- Avoid leaving ripe crops in the garden
Gardeners are welcome and encouraged to work together on any of these initiatives. Please let us know if you would like some support.
Should gardeners approach suspected thieves?
Gardeners should consider their safety first, and whether or not to approach a stranger is completely at their own discretion and risk. If you are comfortable, consider introducing yourself to strangers in the garden, asking them if they have a plot or a friend who gardens there, and letting them know how the garden works. Unless they are directly picking from your plot, you can’t be completely sure that they are thieves, many friends and family are given permission to pick by the plot gardener.
What is Richmond Food Security Society doing to address theft?
Our first step was to conduct the ‘Don’t Pocket the Potatoes’ project in 2016, so that we could determine the best course of action.
We continue to gather theft data to inform our next steps.
We have provided suggestions based on gardeners input to the City of Richmond for the tone, content, and language of large permanent signs for each site.
We have provided input to the City of Richmond regarding gardeners desire for fences, and will continue to support the City with that.
We have developed a multi-language brochure (English and Chinese) that explains the purpose of community gardens and who the produce belongs to. These were distributed to each garden in summer 2017.
We are also exploring options to develop signs for each individual plot, which will allow gardeners to use my languages, and include personal messages.
What is the City of Richmond doing to address theft?
The Parks Department will install large, permanent signage for each Community Garden in early 2018. We have compiled and forwarded gardeners suggestions about the tone, content, and placement of the signs to the City.