British Columbia

Green-thumbed thieves target Queen Elizabeth Park

"Generally, members of the public ... go in at night and just dig up something to take home," said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart MacKinnon of the persistent issue.

Staff replace uprooted shrubs with signs reading 'I was stolen by a plant thief' to raise awareness of issue

Vancouver's parks have been raided many times over the years. Any suspicious behaviour in a park should be reported. (Daria Wojnarski/Vancouver Park Board)

Busy-fingered thieves appear to be exercising their green thumbs in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park.

Several evergreen shrubs have been stolen from the park's rose garden recently.

"Generally, members of the public ... go in at night and just dig up something to take home," said Vancouver Park Board Chair Stuart MacKinnon.

MacKinnon said one of the staff gardeners, frustrated by the thefts, erected small signs at the crime scenes reading "I was stolen by a plant thief" to raise awareness of the issue.

"Plant thefts have occurred in other parks in the city over the years," said MacKinnon. "This is nothing new."

'Heartbreak'

The recently stolen varieties of shrubs include, among others, a mountain laurel, a mock orange and five hebes.

MacKinnon doesn't know the exact dollar value of the plants stolen — though some can be pricey — but said the real cost is "heartbreak."

"More than the cost of the plants, which of course comes out of tax dollars, it's the disappointment of the public who come in and lose."

He said the park board relies on public honesty when it comes to preserving park gardens, as the grounds aren't patrolled by police officers around the clock.

"It's very unfortunate when someone goes in and very selfishly steals."

Stealing from neighbours

As Vancouver continues to develop, more people live in small spaces and aren't afforded the luxury of personal gardens, MacKinnon added.

"When others go in and steal, they're really stealing from their neighbours and friends," he said.

If people notice someone stealing a plant from a park, he asks that they call 311, the city's help line.

Alternatively, they can use the VanConnect mobile phone application to report suspicious behaviour.

With files from Rhianna Schmunk

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