Plant thievery in full bloom in San Francisco's Bernal Heights 

Botanical thievery is in full bloom in Bernal Heights.

Since at least last fall, gardens in the neighborhood grown with great pride and joy — and sometimes significant cost — have been targeted by plant pilferers. And despite two arrests of suspected crooks, the plant thefts have persisted.

Neighbors and police say the thieves are mainly targeting succulents, the ornamental beauties that take to arid climates due to their ability to retain water.

On Wednesday, a resident of the 300 block of College Avenue called police about the repeated thefts from her front yard.

Last fall, Ingleside Station police Capt. Louis Cassenego warned area residents that thieves were snipping the plants in the middle of the night. He asked neighbors to look after one another’s yards and call police if they saw strangers.

Some residents say succulents are targeted because they are expensive and easy to replant and resell. Others think crooks replant them in their own gardens.

Police said they don’t know whether thieves are working in groups or on their own.

“It’s unclear why this is happening, though it sounds like there’s a trend going on,” said Rachel Ebora, executive director of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

The College Avenue victim, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, Joyce, said thieves have struck her home five separate times this year, stealing plants worth $80.

“For us it’s not the money, but the principle of it,” Joyce said. “We want to be proud of our homes, and I would hope that people would appreciate that.”

Outraged residents have done more than call police. Some have joined forces on the blog Bernalwood. There, they swap information, including time and location of thefts, hoping to expose the thieves and halt the butchery.

One resident complained that she no longer grows expensive plants in front of her home after a huckleberry plant was taken last year. She said a jasmine plant was stolen from a planter in front of her home on June 18.

On June 30, cops spotted a man in Sunnyside walking with two garbage bags full of large plants and small trees that had been stolen from nearby city parks. Another man who was arrested for stealing plants “claimed he did not know that it was against the law,” police said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Hands off our plants

Watchdog residents in the Bernal Heights area are frustrated with thieves raiding their gardens. They have written about their experiences on Bernalwood, a neighborhood blog. Here are some examples of thefts:

- Man seen cutting agave plants at intersection of Montezuma Street and Coso and Mirabel avenues
- Succulents being stolen all up and down Ripley Street between Folsom and Alabama streets
- Jasmine plant taken from planter on Folsom Street between Precita Avenue and Ripley Street
- Succulents in front-yard planters on Nevada Street and Powhattan Avenue cut
- Succulents and flower cut from front yard on College Avenue in St. Mary’s Park
- Beheaded succulents in pots on Southern part of Bernal–Crescent Avenue
- Small Japanese maple in a pot stolen from front steps at Cortland Avenue and Coleridge Street
- Aeoniums “neatly cut off” along Guerrero medians, Guerrero Park, sidewalk gardens
- Aeoniums twice stolen from home on Anderson Street

Source: Bernalwood blog

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