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“I just want my plants back, and I want this person(s) to stop targeting my house.”

by Prince Of Petworth April 19, 2017 at 12:30 pm 47 Comments

plants back

“Dear PoPville,

On April 18 at 2:11 a.m. most of my potted plants were stolen from the front of my house on Capitol Hill. I know that in the grand scheme of things this is not the worst of crimes. But my house has been the repeated target of burglars, and I’m tired of it. I had all my Halloween decorations and then my Christmas decorations stolen.


I am also somewhat concerned for my safety.

I am hoping someone will recognize the individual in the grainy video or happen to spot my plants around (they are violets in small round steel containers).

I just want my plants back, and I want this person(s) to stop targeting my house.”

  • Elvis’s Mom

    That sucks, and I’m sorry it happened to you. The good news is this is a thief of opportunity, and unlikely to mean you any harm. They’re just stealing because they can and it’s relatively easy. It’s still wrong, but I hope you don’t lose too much sleep over safety issues. You might want to put a prominent sticker in your front window and perhaps even near the staircase noting that you have cameras and an alarm system, as a deterrent.

    • textdoc

      Given the OP’s experience with Halloween decorations, Christmas decorations, and now the flowerpots, It sounds like anything small/portable and attractive is likely to get stolen.
      OP, you have my sympathy. (The worst that’s ever happened to me with theft was someone cutting and stealing some tulips, and that bummed me out more than I would’ve expected.) I don’t think you’re likely to get your plants back, unfortunately.
      Maybe in future you could try using only items that can be zip-tied to your railings? A really eager thief could come back with scissors, but at least zip ties make things a little harder to steal.

      • textdoc

        Also, I was noticing that the chairs/table set on the patio looked very attractive — are they chained to each other and/or a railing?

      • Monica

        I’ve had someone cut/steal my tulips and daffodils before too, and I totally empathize, it’s surprisingly devastating. Stealing flowers is just so… sad. Sorry that happened to you OP.

  • Superstar

    This happened to a friend in NE. He mentioned it to a neighbor, they said flower pots get stolen regularly in the area so weed can be grown in them.

    • FridayGirl

      You’d think if someone is growing weed to sell that they’d have enough money to buy their own gosh-darn containers.
      OP, I’m sorry this keeps happening to you! That is so frustrating.

    • Hill Denizen

      Seriously. A pot isn’t that expensive. This is just a sh*tty person.

    • Superstar

      “Why spend time and money on going to the store and buying pots when you can steal them off people’s porches for free?” – thought process of local drug dealer

    • Anonynon

      I doubt that given the size of these pots, that would be what is happening here

      • Anon

        I’m told that you need to plant a lot of seeds to get the right pot plants. Something about male vs female vs seedy vs seedless or something. My next door neighbor has at least 30-50 seedlings going and I doubt they’ve switched to basil this year.

    • navyard

      Police are telling me that most of the pot in the District these days is hydroponic. (at least the stinkweed near me) I am unable to confirm that.

      Personally, I think those were just really cute and I think some selfish person just wanted them. I will keep my eyes open and if I see them, I’ll report it. Plants seem like a small deal, but it’s the halloween decorations that got me. Who would do such a thing!?

      p.s. To the OP: Can you get a better camera down lower? I can’t really see much about the thief.

  • Gumball

    Can you print a sign that lets the person know they’re on camera? and maybe also that they’re a P.O.S.? ;-) Seriously, print a sign that says” stop stealing my plants you’re on camera”, put it in a sheet protector and tape it face up on like the first or second step…

  • anon

    Sigh. People just suck sometimes. I guess maybe don’t put anything out that you can’t lock up (as sad as that is). Or maybe can you do window boxes strapped to the porch railing with zip ties? Not that someone couldn’t cut them, but it would be less easy than just grabbing pots off the steps.

    We live right next to the new H St Whole Foods. In the 4.5 years we’ve lived in our house, we had a package stolen I think once. Really never was a problem. All of a sudden after WF opened, we had it happen four times in a row. It’s a frustrating thing to go through for sure.

  • MadMax

    As someone who loves to garden I struggled with this dilemma when trying to plan what to plant in the ground, containers, etc. I decided to only use really large containers, the kind that weigh a lot on their own, and then combined with a bunch of dirt really involve some effort to move. So far it’s been lucky for me that nothing has been stolen…maybe hold back on the easily confiscated pots and switch to something more substantial? It’s certainly no guarantee (and actually sucks more cost-wise if stolen), but clearly the alternative isn’t working out for you. Also, did you have video of the previous thefts? I wonder if it’s the same person who sees your house as an easy target.

    • This was quite a few years back but after having a few small plants stolen I had a large elephant ear, in a large and heavy container, stolen from my back patio. During the day. (The patio was on an alley but easily visible from the street, so the theft was pretty brazen.) That really pissed me off and I pretty much gave up on growing anything on that patio after that.

  • Rach

    Ugh I know the feeling OP, sorry this is happening to you! A few months ago a person consistently came into my yard at night and threw trash, ripped up plants etc. The only way to stop her was to keep calling the police when I saw her in action and eventually padlocking my front gate at night.
    If you have room, can you get a bigger or heavier containers to plant flowers in? You could even use a lighter container but place gravel/rocks at the bottom, which would increase the weight and help with drainage anyway. Or get those planters that attach to railings?

    • textdoc

      Good idea on the rocks — you can get a bag of good-sized heavy rocks fairly cheap.

      • Florista

        I have a giant ceramic garden urn filled 1/3 full of gravel before the dirt, plants, etc. It’s not going anywhere!!

  • Pleasanter

    This sucks. Sorry this happened; it’s happened to me too. I planted a Japanese Maple seedling in my front yard a few years ago, and the next morning it was gone. :(

    I think signs might help, as some posters have suggested.

    • textdoc

      “I planted a Japanese Maple seedling in my front yard a few years ago, and the next morning it was gone.” Yikes! I guess somebody must’ve known its value.
      I would’ve thought that most things would be safe once planted in the ground — usually the Venn diagrams of “avid gardeners” and “thieves” don’t overlap. (Though I feel like we do hear every now and then about small plants being dug up and stolen, maybe around Mother’s Day.)

      • andy2

        I new someone on the Hill that chained their Japanese Maple because two got stolen. They would appear at some less than reputable stores in the neighborhood.

      • Pleasanter

        Pretty nuts. At least I hadn’t paid any money for the seedling, but it did have nostalgic value since it was from my best friend’s childhood home’s yard in NY. They have an old Japanese Maple in their yard that has bunches of volunteer seedlings around it. Thievers are gonna thieve.

      • Traveler

        I heard somewhere that once there was a house on sale and the owners took their Japanese maple before moving (a full blown tree). You’d expect that landscaping would convey, right? I also heard somewhere that Japanese maples have been stolen from public parks too.

        • Ben

          Crazy – a large oak can add significant value to a home. If I were the buyers I would not be happy….

        • MadMax

          Funny, I actually have one that I’ve been hauling from house to house in a huge pot for nearly 12 years now. Finally planted it in the ground this spring :) It was doing so well on our back patio that the roots were growing through the pot and down under the brick, quite a PITA to uproot and transplant solo.

          • Formerly of Capitol Hill

            When my cousin closed on a house, he was surprised to notice a few days later that the previous owners had let themselves back in after the closing (cousin wasn’t moving in for a week or so) and taken away a murphy bed that had been attached to the wall! Cousin didn’t want the murphy bed anyway, but thought it was amazing that they came back for it.

          • MsSunshine

            Re: sellers returning… that’s why you immediately change the locks.

        • navyard

          Haha, former neighbors came back 6 months after they moved out and started digging up their bulbs! I didn’t know what to say as we had been friendly before then. When they told me what they were doing, I said “do the new owners know you’re doing this?” and the reply was something to the effect of “they weren’t expecting tulips to pop up either, so what they don’t know won’t hurt them.” I was astounded.

          • anon

            That’s nuts…how did they know the current homeowners wouldn’t catch them in the act? Also, it’s not as if bulbs are super expensive or rare…just go to Home Depot and get some new ones. I could understand if the bulbs had some sort of sentimental value, but even if that was the case, it’s still completely wrong to dig them up without consulting the current owners. TBH, if the former owner of my house came to me and said, “those daffodils were planted by mom, can I take a few bulbs”, I’d happily dig them up and buy new ones for myself. But if I caught them in my front yard helping themselves without asking, I’d call the police.

          • textdoc

            Navyard — Wow, that is crazy!!

          • textdoc

            “it’s not as if bulbs are super expensive or rare…” For what it’s worth, some bulbs can be more expensive than others, but unless you’re talking about iris rhizomes, they’re usually not all that expensive per bulb.
            In my experience planting daffodil and tulip bulbs, the cost of the bulb is fairly nominal; it’s planting them that’s the laborious part. And digging bulbs _up_ is laborious too, especially if you’re trying to preserve the original bulb to re-plant it somewhere else. So I don’t understand why the thieving sellers would go to the trouble of digging up bulbs when they could just buy some new ones. Especially since tulips aren’t even reliably perennial the way daffodils are!

        • amber

          You would expect that but you’d be surprised what some sellers want to keep (although fixtures, landscaping, etc. that don’t should always be in the Inclusions/Exclusions Disclosure Addendum filled out by the seller).

      • OP Anon

        Unsavory professional landscapers will steal nice plants and then “re-sell” them to their regular clients for planting in their yard in the suburbs. My mom had a gorgeous, perfectly symmetrical, mature sago palm stolen by her own landscaper….he replaced it with a crappier, younger one that was asymmetrical. He thought she wouldn’t notice. He feigned ignorance and my mother fired him on the spot.
        A landscaper can sell a mature plant to a client homeowner for very good money.

    • saf

      When I was working at AU, we came in one day to find that the cherry tree (not small) in front of the building had been stolen overnight.

  • Hill East

    I’m sorry, too. Frustrating. I’ve had a plant stand and a full hose and nozzle stolen (I live in Hill East). Another benefit to using large, heavy pots, as Rach suggested, is that they need to be watered less often than small pots when it gets hot.

    • Hill East

      Should have mentioned MadMax, too, for the big containers idea.

    • Victoria Chamberlin

      Someone stole my hose nozzle, and pillows from the bench on my porch. Then one Christmas for a family “yankee gift exchange” we got a large 2-headed rubber dragon that is now jammed into my garden holding a sign indicating our security camera – no package or porch thefts since.

      • navyard

        Would you please post a picture or a link to this “large 2-headed dragon”? Sounds like what many of us need.

  • AJ

    Growing up, every third or fourth Mother’s Day, my mother would “lose” a houseplant she put outside for the season.

    • soozles

      When I lived in Mt. Pleasant, we used to have plants walk off the porch in the weeks/days before Mother’s Day.

  • Anon

    Also Hill East here and we had large cacti on pots stolen. They were heavy. Someone must have taken one and then returned for the other one because there was no way this person could have taken both at once.

  • DCMom

    The rule of thumb is no planting and such before Mother’s Day. Because in NE, nothing says “I love you Mom,” quite like stolen flowers.

  • JH

    I’m so sorry. I’m on C & 14th NE, and some ^#%&@^# pinched the tops off of all my flowering tulips last Friday around 3pm. You could see it was done with fingers/fingernails, and high up enough on the stem that I couldn’t even put them in water. They left them right there in the dirt, not like cutting them to take as a gift, even. And they walked right up to my door to get all of them.

    I know how you feel. It sucks and feels more then invasive. I suppose this is why we can’t have nice things.

    Is there any way to reposition or add a CCTV camera? Especially since this keeps happening to you, so you can catch their face next time.

    :( sorry

  • soulshadow55

    I once worked with a lobbyist who lived on Capitol Hill. He used to tell me funny stories of neighbors coming come to empty yards where once stood beautiful flowers and/or flower pots. He said once he was sitting in his living room and noticed out of the corner of his eye his neighbor’s wrought iron patio set being carried down the street. Even second story Christmas wreaths were no match for the Capitol Hill thieves.

    Depending on how big or small the pot is, I buy thin chains and weave them through the hole in the bottom of the pot. Then I chain them to the stairs or wrought iron hand rails. I would never put a pot on the stairs or in the yard without chaining it to something. I work too hard for my stuff to let someone else steal it without a fight.

  • asdf

    While we’re talking plant theft – ages back, while walking on some side-street in Dupont with my then girlfriend, we saw this drunk vagrant rip a handful of flowers out of somebody’s garden and pour a vile of cheap perfume on the petals. He then tried to sell the bunch of flowers to me (for my girlfriend). There’s was nothing nonchalant about all this. Totally absurd. I passed.

  • flieswithhoney

    I once confronted a 20 something guy picking my (elderly) neighbor’s flowers for his girlfriend and got an anti-lesbian slur in response thanks to my short hair at the time. People will take anything and I’m sorry this happened to you. Sounds incredibly frustrating.

  • PJatMtP

    I strap my window boxes with plants in them to the porch rails using coat hanger wire, bent and twisted at the ends. Nobody bothers them.


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