Community garden fed up with theft and vandalism
'We always live in fear of that first walk around the garden in the morning'
The Farm Centre's Legacy Community Garden says this has been the worst year yet for theft and vandalism.
A year after organizers reported the theft of almost an entire crop of green peppers, volunteers say people are still stealing large quantities of food — and gardeners are finding their plots picked through before they've had a chance to harvest themselves.
"It's getting so bad now that our gardeners have to pick their vegetables when they aren't ready, otherwise they won't get them at all," said Jean MacLean, the garden's plot co-ordinator.
She said vandalism is up, too. Earlier this year, someone destroyed all the seedlings in the greenhouse, then turned on all the water taps in the field, flooding it.
More recently, a bunch of strawberry plants were ripped from the ground and left in heaps.
'I just don't understand'
"We always live in fear of that first walk around in the morning — what are we going to find?" said MacLean.
"And now we're finding it's just meanness that's happening. If you dig out a strawberry plant with roots you can plant it yourself and have strawberries, but to just desecrate it like that — I just don't understand."
She said it's not fair to the gardeners who rent the 150 plots available, hoping to spend their time at the community garden in peace and grow food for the winter. Or, to the local charities who rely on the food, and the volunteers who work hard to plant, maintain and harvest.
Charlottetown police to increase patrols
The group recently met with Charlottetown police to discuss potential solutions to the theft and vandalism.
Police will now be conducting extra patrols through the gardens overnight, and volunteers and gardeners are being asked to keep an eye out for suspicious activity, particularly at night — and report it.
MacLean has been part of the initiative since it launched five years ago, and said she never imagined having to deal with such rampant theft and vandalism.
'We just can't ignore it'
"We've tried to stay away from that altogether, but it's getting so prominent we just can't ignore it and push it to one side anymore," said MacLean.
In addition to police surveillance, the group is in the process of drafting a plan to better protect the garden exploring options including electronic trip wires, cameras, and motion sensor lights.
Organizers say once a plan is in place, the next step will be a fundraising campaign to purchase whatever equipment is required.