Green Thumb, Sticky Fingers: Plant Thefts Bedevil Local Gardeners

Resident gardeners in the Lower Haight and Alamo Square areas have reported a new pest to contend with—thieves who steal live plants from gardens and plantings.

In a letter this week to Supervisor London Breed, resident and tipster Scott W. said that the above pictured planter—which he rebuilt and planted for a friend and neighbor—was pillaged of its succulents.

"Not clippings," he said, "but fully mature plants."

Far from being a one-off, he soon realized many others were dealing with the same problem .

"Another neighbor, who lives at Fillmore and Waller, had told me only last weekend about this happening to him," Scott said. And the outpouring of similar complaints he heard from people living in Duboce Triangle, the Lower Haight, Hayes Valley, and Noe Valley surprised him.

Dani Coulter, an area garden and landscape designer, says she had two separate clients last week alone plants being stolen.

"I do the plant wall at 4505 BBQ on Divis," she said, "as well as the concrete planter in front and I can't keep anything in there, plants get stolen almost overnight."

Happy wall! @4505meats #collectingflowers #livingwall #gardening #containergardening #begonia #4505meats #gardendesign

A post shared by Dani Coulter (@msfancyplants) on

The thefts continued after she installed a display of thorned cacti that require special gloves for handling. In one instance, a restaurant manager caught a patron putting a succulent in her purse, and air plants have started to go missing from the bathrooms.

This isn't a new problem; a report from 2015 by writer Scott James limns a theory—with video evidence—that such thefts are actually part of a systematic, large-scale operation suspected to be carried out with the intent to resell them.

Despite writing to his supervisor and filing a police report, Scott W. said he didn't "expect much to happen as I do understand ... that this is [a] low priority" in light of other criminal activity.

Even so, "I would love to hear an official response about the types of actions the City is doing to tackle these low-level crimes that are increasing and only hampering our enjoyment of living here," he said.

In a quick response from Breed's office, the advice was to file a police report.

"If the report goes unattended," the letter reads, "or you continue to witness theft, please contact our office again. Our office certainly would like to be aware of all crime—no matter how low priority it may seem—in District Five."

Thanks to tipster Scott W.

Have you seen something strange in the neighborhood? Text your tips and horizontal photos to 415-200-3233. If we use your info in a story, we'll give you credit.

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Green thumb sticky fingers plant thefts bedevil local gardeners