MOTHER'S DAY

Last-Minute Gifts -- at a Steal

Hanging flower baskets, on porches and in store displays, can quickly disappear. Police are warning owners to keep them inside until after today.
Hanging flower baskets, on porches and in store displays, can quickly disappear. Police are warning owners to keep them inside until after today. (By Gerald Martineau -- The Washington Post)
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 14, 2006

Batten down the begonias! Imprison your impatiens!

It's Mother's Day, the most dangerous day of the year for vulnerable, urban blooms that are swiped by thieves who love their mamas but not the law.

This weekend of brunches and bouquets is widely known as the hottest time for flower-filchers. Across the city, police commanders issue warnings to residents and businesses as well as patrol officers to be on the lookout for sticky-fingered folks who eschew the card store in favor of unguarded hanging baskets.

"Even crack addicts want to give something to their moms," warns Andy Solberg, an acting D.C. police commander, "and taking nice stuff off of porches is how some of them do it."

Solberg's advice -- he's been hit at his home in the District -- is to wait until after Mother's Day to pot or hang.

Cmdr. Diane Groomes, head of the 1st Police District, tells her residents to stem the tide of thefts through species selection. Anything with thorns has built-in deterrence potential.

"Rose bushes, holly bushes, things that hurt too much to steal," Groomes said. "And I warn people before Mother's Day. That's kind of the kickoff for this stealing season. Plants, flowers, patio furniture, bikes -- it all starts going now."

She has seen people use stakes: "Even if it just makes it look harder to steal, that can work."

Capitol Hill resident Amy Fanning's garden has been ravaged annually in May.

"Our impatiens -- about 20 plants -- were stolen the day after I planted them," she said. "It was around Mother's Day, so I figured someone's mom got a very nice flat of plants.

"Now I'm worried about my azaleas and hollies," her Mother's Day gifts from last year, she said.

Fake or not, threats can work.


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