Do Items Get Stolen Off Your Porch?

09-18-08_1903, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Per a reader’s request I’m opening up a thread on porch theft. Now, this is really bizarre and just happened to me Wednesday night. I believe I must be living in some alternative universe. I swear the following is true. When I came home from work, the above photographed plant was on my porch. There was no plant there when I left for work. I have no idea who gave me this plant. It was quite a pleasant surprise. I guess it sort of balances out the universe a bit. Share similar or less pleasant experiences after the jump.

62 Comment

  • My motto is: in DC, if its out in public, its public. Basically, there’s enough derelicts and teenagers roaming around at all hours that stuff just seems to walk off. The best I know of is a mini-fridge stolen off a fifth floor fire escape. Now that’s work for some crackhead… A house I used to live in had its welcome mat stolen, then our garden hose. I’ll never forget a newcomer housemates befuddled look as she said ‘our welcome mat is gone…?’ Ahh, welcome to DC!

  • We often have deliveries and the drivers seem to know if they get no answer after knocking, to leave the package behind our screen door. So far, we’ve never had anything lifted. Plus having nosy neighbors who are always looking outside helps. Also, I have packages delivered to my work if I know I’ll have to sign for them.

  • Last winter the skeletal remains of a badly tended to rosemary bush had been removed from our front porch, only to appear days later on the porch next door. Wild as those college kids were next door, we surely didn’t blame them.
    It’s like theft as daring performance art.

  • I’ve had hedge clippers, a shovel, gloves, and fertilizer stolen from my back porch. My neighbor told me he had scared two teenagers away who were climbing up to the second floor porch in the back to try to steal a 10 year old bicycle worth about $5. My neighbors generally either take my packages into their houses to keep them safe until I get home or stash them on my property where only I can find them. I have most sent to my work, in case the crackheads get to my packages before my neighbors do.

    I was going to set up a minefield on my property, but I think it would be pretty messy. The mailman probably wouldn’t appreciate it either. I could electrify the fence, but the air conditioning is expensive enough. Maybe I can set that up in the winter.

  • we had our obama yard sign stolen two weeks ago. i bet a lipstickpig did it.

  • I had a 40 pound bag of topsoil stolen once from my front yard that had been purchased at Hechingers for a little over $2 (yes it wxas that long ago). I was always sorry I didn’t catch the perps to see if they would make a run for it carrying the bag.

  • My neighbors warned me when I put a plant out on the front porch that someone could steal it. But if you want a plant that was given to me free in a pot that was $10, it would save me from having to bring too many plants indoors for the winter

  • anything that can be sold will be stolen. my roomate once left a 30 rack of bud light on the porch, and realized he left it there about 15 seconds after walking inside. yeah… it was gone.

  • To add to the litany…
    Obama Sign
    2 Chairs
    At least 2 packages
    Another soft foldable chair
    And a broken garden hoe.

    Luckily, it’s been awhile. And like some of the other commentors, our neighbors have stepped up the monitoring and we keep a lookout for each other now.

  • i have had a package stolen from the front porch (it had an electronics store name on the box so i figured it be gone before i could even get home.) and a garden hose. and the worst was someone dug up 3 freshly planted herbs i had put in next to the street (2 thyme and 1 rosemary which have never had a problem since i planted more in the back.) digging up my little herbs was a low blow.

  • Despite lots of crime that I have been subjected to, (house broken into, car stereo stolen, etc) I have actually never had anything stolen off my front or back porch… knock on wood. I have had the cops call me to tell me they thought people were stashing drugs in the mulch in my front yard, and that they would have to go sift through it, that was interesting…

  • Stolen from our porch…

    1. Hanging plant
    2. Car stereo in a box — which was the one our insurance company mailed to us to replace the one stolen out of our car
    3. Habanero plants (but I think that instance might have been a squirrel)

  • In the past year:
    * my Halloween pumpkin was stolen
    * all my Christmas decorations were stolen — including the replacement decorations that I put up in defiant Yuletide cheer after the first round was stolen. My neighbors, who had identical decorations 4 doors down, did not have theirs stolen. I felt so targeted. Fortunately, they were things I bought the previous January at a 90% discount. Otherwise, I probably would have been as angry as I was dismayed.
    * this spring, once all the perennial flowers reached full bloom, someone came in the middle of the day and cut them off, presumably for their own floral arrangement at home. I admired the blooms when I left that morning and bemoaned the stalks when I came home.

    These experiences left me bereft of hope — never again will I do anything that requires my effort or money to try to liven up the communal streetscape or impart a general seasonally appropriate cheer.

  • Mine is the best. Last year for Halloween we placed three small pumpkins on our front porch. I returned home from work, completely puzzled when I saw one LARGE pumpkin on my porch, but no little ones. I looked around to check if I was on hidden camera. It really was funny. Why in the world would someone replace my little pumpkins? I assume they thought, “hey they need a bigger pumpkin, let me give them mine and I’ll take the little ones” Or perhaps someone was baking a pie and thought that my little pumpkins would be better suited. Anyway, we had a chuckle about it for weeks. Too funny!

  • The bastards — and they must have been tall bastards — just swiped three hanging ferns from my front porch. Over the years we’ve had everything from a hammock to bicycles swiped. And years ago, someone told my wife that he was going to “put a cap in her ass” when she asked him (out the window) to put down the newspaper he was swiping. Sadly, he and his ass-capper were gone by the time I found my pants and an appropriate blunt object and got outside.

    I’m installing a motion detector soon, and leaving a baseball bat next to the front door. I remain eager to put a hurtin’ on somebody.

  • Oh by the way, we have never had anythign stolen in the 7 years we lived in Petworth, just the little pumpkins. And we had packages delivered all the time and left on the porch. We must have had nicer thieves…

  • My precious aloe plant! I still look for it…

  • Someone actually signed for a UPS package at my house and then took it! When I called UPS they told me that I had signed for it and I informed them that I wasn’t home at 1:23 in the afternoon on a Friday, so that was impossible. Luckily the online retailer was garcious, filed a claim and I eventually got a replacement – at my office.

  • I’m curious — is it crackheads trying to get something saleable or just punk kids looking for sh*ts and giggles who do this? Or is it someone else? What’s the general impression people have?

  • Back when I lived in Mt Pleasant, I had a pair of muddy wet Nike sneakers taken.

    On a better note, I needed to take a bunch of stuff to Goodwill, but I decided to be lazy and leave it on the front porch and see if someone would take it away for me. They did.

    Now that I live in Col Heights/Petworth, I don’t lock up anything and nothing gets stolen. My neighbors have kids who leave bikes and toys out and nothing ever gets taken.


  • CHLibrary, I have a super nice aloe plant that needs adoption. Do you want it? I can drop off.


  • I’m curious if all these people who are having things taken live in Petworth or elsewhere? I’ve never had anything stolen from my porch in Petworth, and I’m not aware of my neighbors losing things either. That could be in part because there are always many people hanging out during all hours at the very friendly house down the street, and they seem to want to keep police off our block. But it definitely feels very safe to me.

  • saf

    CH Librarian – those are the plants I lose too. It’s always the big aloes. They leave the little ones. I lost 3 huge aloe plants this year.

    OK, once I lost a prayer plant. But every other time, it’s been the aloes.

  • Kay, I love the pumpkin story!

    For the past several years, I’ve collected different kinds of coleus and planted them in my shady yard and in pots going up the steps. They’re pretty and colorful, but also cheap and easy to grow from cuttings. Apparently, the plant thief didn’t know this, and unearthed several plants and walked off with them. They completely ingnored my landscape architecture student neighbor’s yard, with it’s exotic and expensive plants.

    I live in Bloomingdale, so posted the incident to our very responsive listserv and someone wrote back a story of seeing an elderly woman with a tennage girl. The elderly woman was pointing to plants from people’s yards that she wanted and the girl dug them up and they walked off.

    I also had inherited some (what I always thought were) ugly concrete planters from the previous owner, that are shaped like wicker baskets. They’re so ridiculously heavy that I never bothered to try and dispose of them, but someone apparently took enough of a liking to them to walk off with two of the three.

  • I had my security sign on a stake stolen……

  • My husband and I were riding our bikes to the gym a Saturday morning not too long ago. His bike is nice, mine was total crap. At 13th and Euclid my bike essentially fell apart, for no apparent reason. Front tire came off and the chain was off. Well, neither of us are any good with tools, and like I said, this bike was total crap anyway.

    He wanted to skip the gym and walk back with all the random bike parts to our house. My vote was, “No, let’s let the street handle it.” I explained that if on our way back from the gym, the bike was still there we would take it home, I didn’t want to crap up the sidewalk with my broken bike. But I was fairly sure I could count on “the street.”

    On our way back an hour later there was no trace of it…

  • I had my bike stolen off my porch one night only to find it on my neighbors porch a few nights later. I know for a fact that it wasn’t my neighbor because we were hanging out the night it disapeared and why would he ride it next door anyway? As I figure some guy was probably blotto and tired of walking home, I’m just glad that he remembered to bring it back in the morning if not exactly WHERE to bring it back.

    …that being said, if anyone ever steals my tacky 70’s foldable chair from my porch, blood will run in the streets.

  • A few months back, a friend who had come over to BBQ was standing in front of our house on a call. A middle-aged woman walked up, made eye contact, took a trowel out of a bucket, dug up a beautiful flowering iris, put it in the bucket and walked away.

  • I don’t get this plant stealing phenomena some of you are sharing. I get the stealing of bikes, chairs, etc., but taking plants? How has stealing someone’s plants become okay?

    To date I only have had packages taken off my stoop. On the day I moved into my place my nice and nosy neighbor warned us about putting any planters on our stoop as the previous tenant’s planters and hanging baskets kept on being stolen.

    FYI. I live in Shaw or Logan Circle East as the realtors say.

  • jessinmtp, why didnt your friend kick her ass?

  • I live in a pretty decent building, but I would never, ever have a package delivered there. Any delivery goes to my office, no ifs ands or buts. Large law firm mailrooms rock.

  • Last week I had my crappy $20 electric weedwhacker stolen out of my backyard, but the gate was still latched from the inside. They either jumped over the fence on the way out or took the time to wedge their fingers in from the outside of the fence to re-latch if after grabbing the weedwhacker.

  • We’ve had plants stolen out of the ground in the beds on either side of our front door. I find it hard to believe anyone who admires plants that much would resort to stealing. I never thought of someone with a green thumb as having a penchant for stealing???

  • Bought three matching pots and populated them with a nice mix of flowers sometime this summer. We lined them up on the wall at the front of our yard. (13th and Park) We knew it was a risk, but gave it a shot. Came back from a w/e away to find one of them gone. That took about 4 weeks. Three weeks later, number two walked off. Now, number three lives next to our front door instead of out by the sidewalk. I don’t have high hopes for it.
    I’m not happy about any of this, but I can live with it — we knew that we were taking a risk by placing a moveable object in front of our house (even heavy ones). If, however, someone digs up any of the perennials or shrubs that I’ve planted in the yard, as some of you have described, I will set fire to the neighborhood. It will burn long and hot.

  • I know there’s a book or an article about the merits of stealing plants from corporate gardens or city tree boxes or some such. I can’t for the life of me remember the title or the term of the act of such theft. Its something like ‘commando gardening’ I think. Anyone know what I’m talking about? Regardless, stealing plants from a persons porch are yard is of course just rude, but then again so much of what happens in this city is exactly that.

  • Cloudyindc – Thank you for the offer – that would be awesome! It was kept on a full sun porch and was doing quite well. I’m at the corner of Kansas and Georgia most afternoons:)

    saf – are you saying somewhere there is a massive garden of purloined aloes? or a compulsive thief/burn victim?

  • IF there is a secret garden of purloined aloe plants I certainly hope its tended by a thieving compulsive burn victim that would be a perpetually swirling vortex of karma.

  • Bastards stole my kids jogging stroller.

  • to the person asking about whether these crimes are happening in Petworth, I live in Petworth – I haven’t had anything stolen off of my front porch, but my neighbor did have her beautiful potted plants stolen a couple months ago. She thought it was the neighbor kids until I mentioned that the Petworth News Blog had recently reported a rash of front porch robberies of plants.

    Hers was stolen Friday. Open-air flea markets/plant sales operate on Saturday.

  • I used to live up around Tenth and Otis NW. Someone would go around at night and dig up plants in peoples yards. Gardeners on the street gave up on hostas, and one woman has a chain that links all of her bushes to her house. Oddly enough, though, I have never had a package stolen.

  • Heres my story, I put my old appliances (Refridge, oven and dishwasher)out in my rear driveway by the alley for trash collection. I went to a friends house, came back later that evening and all the old appliances were gone. I didn’t even have to call DC for a large trash pick-up.
    I had Mulch for front yard landscaping put in my rear driveway. My wonderfully nosey neighbor, who usually sits by her rear window, saw a strange truck pull up to my driveway. My neighbor goes out her rear door, stares at the man in the truck who is eyeballing my mulch and when he see her looking at him, he takes off.

  • The people who live in the apartment above mine had their bike seat stolen and a tire from their bike that was chained to the railing in our front yard stolen. He also had his motorcycle damaged from someone trying to steal it. All things that sorta make sense.
    We at least still have the 20 or so bags of mulch, all of our plants, and our hose out on the porch. Shrug. Maybe people don’t care too much about plants on 10th and Monroe. If they did the tomato and other veggie plants just down the street would probably be taken in a hot minute.

  • I”m over in Brookland… and when we bought our house, it needed work. So we installed an alarm and got to work. Not many days later, the alarm goes off and I run to the house (8 mos pregnant) to find out if we’ve been robbed. I check everything, but it’s fine. All the tools, the appliances, all ok. While I’m on the phone with my husband, I step out onto the front stoop and realize that someone took our downspouts. Stole 2 lousy aluminum downspout painted to look like copper.

    Nothing else tho – no plants, tools, furniture or packages.

    A year and a half later, someone took the 3 downspouts from the new construction nearby. I saw the builder looking perplexed and shrugged, figuring maybe it’s just a newbie hazing to the neighborhood?

  • @Sophiagrrl: Copper theft along with theft of other metal is a growing problem, particularly in urban areas as prices of scrap rise. Your downspout thieves probably thought they had quite the catch with that much “copper”.


  • Porch theft is quite common in Mount Pleasant. We actually had a turkey costume stolen out of the box several years ago. Real street value that thing must have had. When we spoke with the police about this they told us that there was a woman with little kids who trailed the mail and other delivery people. She would send the kids up on the porch to knock on the door and if no one answered they would open the packages take out the stuff and quickly leave. She would store the stuff in a stroller. Since then we have all of our stuff delivered to our offices and leave nothing that we care about on our porch. Yes it does mean a stroller in our entry way but they cost too much to risk getting swiped.

  • with the end of the handgun ban, maybe we can “weed out” some of these thieves…

  • saf

    CHLibrarian – I think that they are selling the leaves. Seriously, they leave my little aloes and take the big big ones. Have you seen the leaves at the little markets? I always wonder if that’s how my poor aloes ended up.

  • Since I have lived in DC 1 year and 7 months: purse out of car, bike, laptop, house broken into, car windows broken twice, now I leave my car doors unlocked and my car is rummaged through monthly, but windows are not broken, BUT my tomato plant is still in the front yard although, I have strong suspision it has been urinated on several times. Oh, and 12 year old boys threw rocks at me…

  • I am considering buying a house in CH, or possibly Petworth, int he next few months. I’ve lived out in one of the nicer suburbs for most of my life, and even out here things get stolen. But if/when I move to D.C. I’m likely to do at least some of the following things:

    1. Not leave anything outside that is not bolted/chained down. I will not buy a property without off-street parking that is at least behind a locking fence. Possibly build a garage. My car is only worth a few grand but I wanted to kill someone the last time my car was broken in to. I’d rather not go through that again.
    2. Install a CCTV system with 4 infra-red cameras and DVD recording (these go for around $2000). If anyone even enters my property at all, I’ll have a video recording of the incident. I once had my garage broken into out here in Montgomery County and never caught the perps. A camera system could have changed things quite a bit.
    3. Buy a gun. Maybe just a shotgun (no permits required).
    4. Buy a gun safe to keep my gun and other valuables in. Bolt it down, in the basement if possible.
    5. Put up some signs to the effect that anyone caught breaking and entering my property can be lawfully shot.

    Naturally I’ll also make my property as secure as possible.

    Oh, and this is kind of off-topic, but…. The other day I was in Petworth looking at properties and there was an older black man and his wife walking down the sidewalk. When he saw me and the real estate broker coming out of a house he lashed out with all sorts of profanity about ‘all these f’ing’ white people’ around, and how ‘they moved out here to get away from all these f’ing white people.’ He sounded pretty pissed. This was at 2pm on a Sat afternoon. Talk about some ultra-racist shiat. Makes me want to carry a gun on my person when out and about…

  • Mike ~
    “kind of off-topic” wow. Yes you are. Going from mild porch theft stories to wanting to kill people … Why in the world would you ever leave your “nicer suburbs” to live in the city when you have an attitude like that? Of course that guy didn’t want you moving in because it is people like you who ruin neighborhoods. Instead of embracing and being a part of the community you live in, you want to build your fortress of security and isolate yourself. Hell, you want to walk around with a gun just to protect your ass from offensive comments! Suburban transplants like you do not belong in DC.

  • Jen-

    Where to start… I was definitely venting somewhat in that post, and for that I apologize. Let me explain myself. I’m an incredibly open-minded person, and I’ve grown up in a very diverse community. I have friends of every ethnicity and I’ve visited more than twenty countries. I consider myself to have a very tolerant and understanding personality. I do not look down on anyone because of ‘race’ and I have a very low tolerance for racism. It makes me physically ill. It really hit a nerve to hear such to hear such things spoken to me. I’m not used walking down the street on a lovely day on a quiet street to have someone shouting MFer at me from less than 10 feet away. So after being accosted like that I went off a bit after reading about all this theft going on, I went off.

    In three decades of enjoying what DC has to offer, this was definitely one of the more shocking things that I’ve seen. I actually felt rather threatened. I have never carried a gun, do not wish to carry a gun, do not own a gun, but this incident made me think for a moment about carrying a gun.

    As far as ‘ruining neighborhoods’, I consider the individuals walking down the street shouting racist epithets to be the ones who do that.

    As for ‘fortress of security’, I would chain my barbeque grill down if I lived in D.C., just as I have it chained down now in the burbs. Things have a tendency to walk off if you don’t look after them. I thought that was the whole point of this thread.

    To me, good security is just common sense. For example, I want good security for my car. It’s not worth much in monetary terms, but It means a lot to me. The last time I had someone burglarize my home and strip my car, it was like having a piece of my soul ripped out. Why would I Not want to avoid that?

    I am a truly nonviolent person (I even go out of my way to open the window and let out bees that have made it into my room), and I think I really came off the wrong way with that rant. But anyway, its too late to be defending myself in an argument on the internet. Sorry for the threadjack.

  • Oh, yea, we’ve lost lots of plants to theft, and not potted ones. The “commando gardener” in CH likes to dig up what s/he wants. Our yard is no exception.

    But the front porch theft that really hurt happened one mid-winter Sunday. We had gotten a ton of snow overnight, and I was going to start my day shoveling. I decided, however, to spend a few minutes glancing at the Sunday paper first, so when I went out to fetch the paper I propped the shovel right outside our front door. Less than 10 minutes later, after perusing the headlines, I went out to find the shovel gone and a lone set of footprints heading off down the street. I was LIVID. I wanted to follow the prints to the perp and get my G$* d@%!m shovel back, but my girlfriend wouldn’t let me. She feared for my life. I just wanted to kick some a**.

    After hours of ranting about the theft, I ended up shoveling the sidewalk with a gardening spade and a broom. To an Ohio girl, that’s just embarrassing.

  • I had the wiper blades (just the blades, not the arms) stolen off of my car. They were sh*t anyway…

  • @ Warder Kid

    I found your broken garden hoe … she was asleep in my garden this morning. Come and get her. Thanks.

  • We have had a few packages taken.. Recently– My housemate had just returned home from work when a woman came to our door. She had a package with our address on it and was willing to sell it back to us. After hearing a story of mistaken address followed by a ransom, my housemate grabbed the package from her and closed the door.

  • Mike, I understand your venting. In many ways, these blogs and listserv’s are the only place to air grievances and bellow at absurdities of DC. Lord knows actual complaints are fairly worthless… So, vent on!

  • I just don’t get people sometimes. Walking down the street talking about “effing white people?” On what planet is that acceptable?

    I don’t have a porch but stealing plants off porches was a big deal when I was in Miami. My aunt had a beautiful staghorn fern — a very expensive plant — stolen off her front porch. But actually digging up the plants themselves is really beyond the pale.

  • Its totally normal on the DC planet. My favorite game is comparing the number of threats of violence I get versus my friends out in the burbs. There’s are consistently around zero threats of violence, and mine are usually about 1 – 2 a week. And most if not all are race based. A memorable one I had last year was bringing 5 shirts to the dry cleaners at 6:45pm, they closed at 7pm, and there’s 2 other people in there. The woman behind the counter looks me dead in the eye and says in a loud clear voice: “I wanna cut the motherfuggin head off them white folks who bring in a whole pile of shirts right before closing.” I sort of shifted around, said “ummmmmmmmmm” and left. That’s the interesting thing about DC, you can be doing dry cleaning, getting your milk, or walking the dog, and all of a sudden BAM: get ready for tha thug life!

  • I’m in CH (around 13th and Monroe) and have been in the neighborhood for about three years. I haven’t had anything walk off my front porch yet. Actually, we’ve had some stuff on the porch that Freecyclers haven’t picked up, and I’ve been hoping they’d walk off, but no luck yet. I’m going to have to bring them down to the sidewalk with a “free” sign on them to get them out of here.

    We don’t have particularly friendly or alert neighbors, so I’m not sure why our stuff stick around. We DID have one thing get stolen off our back porch: a cheap but colorful striped rug that was airing out on the railing. I was annoyed.

  • Ahhhhh! I just noticed our nice, great big pumpkin was stolen off our front porch. It makes me so mad that the thief was so close. That poor pumpin is now doomed to be smashed all over the street by some rotten kids.

  • Just bought a metal shovel yesterday… Yup one of those illegals shoveling for cash walked off with it!!!! Of course only after leaving me his chipped plastic one!!!

  • I had a ornate flower pot that i was using as a cigarette butt container stolen from my porch about a month ago…I replaced it with a small brown flower pot, only to come home today and find it missing! I’m thinking of putting another out there soon, coated in some hazardous material so the thief can get his just dessert.

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