Allotment security

Here’s some allotment security advice, since if you have an allotment it's a fact of life sooner or later you'll suffer at the hands of thieves or vandals. Even if you're lucky enough to have your site surrounded by high secure fencing that's no guarantee. So here are some things you can do to minimise the risk.

using_binocularsKeep vigilant

Serious thieves like to case the joint, so take note if you see a stranger wandering about the allotment site. You can hardly go up and accuse them… but finding a reason to walk near and then engage them in conversation may just be enough to convince the thief there’s a risk of you giving the Police a reasonable identification.

With children, often the cause of vandalism, it’s more difficult to take action if only because they’re so flippin’ cheeky! But you have a right to ask them what they’re doing on the allotments. Try engaging them in conversation to see if there’s anything of common interest that might be enough to avoid any wanton damage.

Of course you shouldn’t put yourself at risk, but if you’re suspicious report it to the Police.

bad newsReport every single incident to the Police

It’s true that, given the lack of witnesses, there’s little chance of finding the offenders. That shouldn’t put you off giving the Police details and getting a crime number every time something happens. That includes if you see something or someone looking suspicious. There may be a pattern that gives the Police a better chance of catching the offenders.

After a while all these reported but unsolved crimes accumulate on the Police records… and the Chief Constable doesn’t like lots of unsolved crimes. Makes the performance figures look bad. So your allotment problem will be noticed.

If you have enough incidents the Police will allocate a major crime number. Let all your allotment colleagues know to mention that number when they call the Police so all the records are linked to your site.

For our allotments at Hill Rise in St Ives, Cambridgeshire…

The number to call for the Police is 101

The major crime number to quote is CF-0232680551

Allotment-Watch-Logo Set up an allotment watch scheme

This scheme supports improved co-ordination between plot holders, the Police and the local Council. It also encourages plot holders to help themselves by following the advice above.

locked gate Keep the site entrance secure

You might be lucky enough to have a fence around the site, but all too often it’s the site access gate that’s the weak point. It only takes one instance of travellers gaining access and setting up caravans on the site to make everyone realise how lax things can become.

Plot holders think they’re helping the next colleague to gain access by leaving the gate open… if so it’s only a matter of time before someone leaves it open overnight in error.

If a combination lock is used to secure the gate plot holders can leave the clasp undone or leave the combination on the access code. Unfortunately they may be helping the thieves as well.

old allotment shed An Englishman's shed is his castle, but...

... unfortunately few sheds are built that robustly, so don't leave anything of value behind. When considering shed security there are two extremes as follows…

The Fort Knox approach
The natural inclination is to put a lock on your shed door. Unfortunately that signals to thieves you've something worth protecting. So if you are going to secure your shed make sure the lock is a good quality
close shackle padlock that's hard to lever or cut. But the lock is only as good as what it's attached to and most shed doors and frames are pretty insubstantial. Door hinges and clasps should be secured with threaded coach bolts and back plates or large back washers.

If you have a window either board it over if you don't need the light or fit wire mesh or bars. If the window needs to open you'll need a similar level protection as for the door. Growing prickly plants such as berberis or holly around windows will help deter intruders.

Battery operated shed alarms are available and your local Police may have them available at a discounted price. A large notice on your door stating no items of value are kept in the shed may help.

Cast an eye over your shed to check for any other vulnerable areas. If the walls are made from flimsy wood overlap you may want to consider lining the inside with plywood sheeting.

All that may seem way over the top, but anything less will mean your door is likely to be ripped open or the window smashed and the thieves gaining access. A bit frustrating if you really do have nothing worth stealing and the damage to your shed is the only loss!

The Laissez-Faire approach
The other extreme is not to put any security on your shed at all. Leave the door unlocked so if thieves want to check they can see you've got nothing worth stealing. Even better, make sure they have a good view through any windows so they don't even need to go in. A notice on the door to say there's nothing of value in the shed and therefore the door is unlocked might help.

This is the ‘security’ I use and in six years of having my shed I've never had anything stolen. I know trespassers have been in my shed occasionally and I did have a spade put through one window… and that's the risk with this approach. Although you might not suffer damage from thieves you are at risk from vandals.

allotment tools Protecting equipment
You can mark all tools and equipment with your postcode or with Smartwater, which the Police can probably supply at a discount. Alternatively chain and lock all your stuff together or attached to a heavy concrete weight. But it’s far far better not to keep anything of value on your allotment.
 
 
Veg theft Now where did those string beans go?
Unfortunately down the throat of the opportunist who, wandering past your plot when all was quiet, took a fancy to them. It’s sooooo frustrating to bring your produce to the peak of perfection only to find it stolen. The only thing you can do is place high growing vegetables such as peas and beans near the front of the plot to partially screen what else is growing. Thieves are after an easy get away and may not want to be caught right in the middle of your plot.


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