Many allotment sites suffer from vandalism and theft. Sometimes it is minor such as the theft of pumpkins, squashes etc and sometimes major as has happened on sites in Hythe, involving smashing of gates, sheds being overturned, or chairs stolen.
This problem sometimes leads to plotholders just giving up. Just as you will feel violated if your house is burgled, vandalism of or theft from your plot has a severe emotional impact. It’s almost worse in a way as at least you can see a reason for the burglar – he wants to take your property to make money.
The vast majority of vandalism and theft is undertaken by children, often as young as 10 if not younger. They do it out of boredom, lack of anything better to do.
Theft is not generally very profitable on an allotment site. The value of stolen tomatoes or pumpkins is next to nothing. Tools like spades, which cost a lot of money new, are next to nothing second hand. Even rotavators have a pretty bad weight to value ratio.
How to reduce theft and vandalism on your allotment
Lock tools and chairs in a shed
Offenders are more likely to pick on a plot where tools and other valuables are left open than one where everything is out of site and inside a locked shed. Wooden sheds will still be somewhat vulnerable to being pushed over or having the door kicked in, but they are more likely to move on to somewhere where they don’t have to make such an effort.
Increased occupancy on a site will result in more people being around and thereby deterring the culprits from coming. Since most of the problem will occur at night, when plotholders are unlikely to be around, it is only going to deter, but it will assist. Encourage your neighbours to take on an allotment. It’s not just healthy exercise and good food they will obtain, but increased security too.
A lower cost and ecologically more beneficial method is to plant a hedge by the boundary. Plants such as Hawthorn and Pyracantha have nasty thorns that will make getting in well nigh impossible.
These bushes take up space and can create a rain shadow for vegetables. It obviously takes years to grow to such a stage as to be effective. Once grown they require regular trimming to keep them in bounds. On the plus side they increase biodiversity and provide food for birds, shelter for pest predators etc.
Since most of the trouble is likely to come from local children and youths, possibly the best answer to reducing vandalism is to include children and the local community. If the local community is aware of an allotment site, considers it of value and has some sense of ownership then they are more likely to dissuade children from undertaking acts of vandalism against the allotment and to report unusual happenings on the site.
If the children themselves appreciate the allotment site and know the plot holders then they are less likely to want to cause trouble. Better still, if they actually have a plot themselves they will discourage their compatriots from causing trouble.
Events such as open days and offering tours to the local community help in these aims. Donations of surplus produce or other services to a community will assist as well.