Nicholson-Hardie Has Tried Spikes and Cameras, But the Plant Thieves Keep Coming Back

What thief can resist such an appealing arboreal specimen?
What thief can resist such an appealing arboreal specimen?

The iron railing surrounding Nicholson-Hardie's plant nursery on Lovers Lane is as much rampart as it is fence. It's called the Impasse Gauntlet, and its only slightly less intimidating than it sounds -- eight feet tall and topped with fearsome tridents. Owner Josh Bracken invested in it a decade ago after experiencing a wave of thefts and deciding that it would be less forbidding to customers than concrete and concertina wire.

"It thwarted the break-ins for some time," Bracken said. But plant thieves are a surprisingly dedicated lot, and they soon found ways to foil the Impasse Gauntlet and get their paws on the foliage it protects.

Take last night. A couple of thieves pushed milk crates up to the outside of the fence and, using long wooden poles, quite literally lifted 10 juniper shrubs, $50 a pop, up and over to their side. They'd done the same thing the night before, taking an array of potted plants worth $600.

Bracken has security cameras, but they, like the fence, haven't put much of a dent in the thefts. "I think those people, whoever's doing it, reaches a certain comfort level." Or else they're so blitzed on drugs that the thought of being impaled on a tall fence doesn't really concern them.

That's mostly what Bracken attributes it to: petty criminals looking to make a quick buck.

"It runs in spurts," he says. "It's pervasive around the Christmas season, sometimes in the summer season. Police think like there might be some corollary with someone getting released." Someone like the man caught stealing $13,000 worth of stuff from the nursery a couple years back.

For Bracken, it's just a part of the plant business that one can attempt to discourage but can never truly eliminate. Concertina wire, he says, is still out of the question.

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