We will likely never completely cure the theft and vandalism problem, but there are lots of things we can do to decrease
the incidents and make our gardens feel more secure and safe. There is a certain amount of letting go that must happen
since some loss is inevitable. But the key is to find ways that the very people that could do the vandalism and theft are
involved and work more toward protecting your resource. You want them to feel vested, not locked out.
Sprinkle white flour liberally over prized produce. People might think it's laden with pesticides and won't take it. Keep a stash of white flour in your garden
(maybe in a sealed plastic container) and re-apply as soon as possible after a rain.
If you're comfortable doing it, gently confront someone who appears to be stealing produce. An easy way to do this is to approach them, greet them, and ask how their garden is doing. If they act uncomfortable or don't give much of an answer, keep the conversation going. Many people who steal don't really understand what a community garden is... they maybe think it's "the city" growing food (and doesn't really belong to individual people), or one farmer who won't miss a few tomatoes. Once they understand that it's made up of many families working hard to grow their own food, and they themselves can get a plot, they just might join the next year.
Greet and meet all of your fellow gardeners that you can. Harvest all your produce; leave nothing to temptation.
If you are busy or going out of town and need help, ask a fellow gardener to harvest your ripe produce for you.
A common excuse given by thieves is "there sure is a lot of food going to waste here". If someone's plot looks
like it has not been harvested in a while, a simple reminder call could be in order; if they can't, offer to glean
and take the fruit to the nearest food pantry.
Fences can make it less convenient for someone to take things from your plot.
Consider not growing popular & tempting things like watermelon.
Greet the police officers when they come by, and thank them for being a presence and
helping us to keep the garden safe and secure.
Attend garden events whenever possible. The more gardeners you get to know, the more
likely it will be that you can spot someone who is stealing from someone's plot. In addition,
this is a great way to make new friends; you know you've got two things in common: a love
of gardening, and you live (or work) in the same neighborhood.
Do not send people in to harvest for you. If you wish to share your produce/flowers, please
pick it and give it. Don't invite different people from the neighborhood (kids too) in to pick
something when you aren't there. Several problems can arise from doing this. Other people
may conclude they can pick too. People from outside the garden often don't understand that
next year someone else might be gardening your plot and that person won't want uninvited
picking. Misunderstandings occur about the boundaries of your plot and where it is or is not
OK to pick. What may be a one time or limited offer from you is sometimes taken as an open
invitation. And finally, fellow gardeners may see a stranger in your plot and think that
they are stealing your produce.
Consider hiding vegetables by planting desirable plants in less visible location.
Plant more vegetables than you need.
If you observe theft or vandalism in the garden, call 911 right away. Get a good description
of person or vehicle if possible. Get the incident report number and be sure to post
information on the bulletin board for other gardeners to see.
If you find vandalism and/or theft after the fact you can still report it to the police. It is good
to let the police know you're having problems so they can visit the site more often.