Theft Deterrence


We have a pomegranate tree in our front lawn, pretty close to the sidewalk. Although we live on a quiet, sheltered, cul-de-sac, that doesn’t keep people from driving by, hopping out of their car, nabbing a few poms and speeding away. Last year we woke up one morning to find half of the tree stripped – basically all pomegranates within reach.

What to do? I had fantasies of installing a motion-detector camera, but the wiring was a challenge. So, this year, after we noticed the first missing pomegranate, I got out with my permanent marker and wrote over every pomegranate within reach “Please do not steal” or “Shame on you”. My father scoffed at the idea. I mean, if someone is going to steal a pomegranate, they’re going to steal one, right? But it more or less worked. Few pomegranates went missing for the rest of the season, and we had one of the biggest crops ever. We juice every one, and we either drink the juice, or turn it into jelly. We did catch a couple of people in the act of stopping to pick one anyway, and when they asked if they could have one, we gave it to them.

Why did this method work? I think many people were taking fruit because they thought that either 1) it was near the sidewalk so it was public property, or 2) we couldn’t possibly use all those pomegranates and if they didn’t pick them the poms would probably rot. This would be the justification I would use if I were to nab fruit from someone’s tree. But, by marking them, not only did we lay claim to the poms, but we made it difficult for someone who stole one to enjoy it conscientiously.

7 thoughts on “Theft Deterrence

  1. I chuckled after reading your situation of
    marking the pomegranates to deter stealing.
    Here in Hawaii, if fruits like mangoes, guavas,
    breadfruit, lilikoi(passion fruit) and tangelos,
    just to name a few, are hanging over a
    fence – say, ALOHA! Which means “good-bye”.
    Sad, but true.

  2. Oh boy. I think I hear my karma talking to me. I am a neighborhood fruit thief and I use all the justifications you imagine your pomegranate stealers would use.

    But I will say this in my defense, Your Honor: I only take fruit (mostly lemons) from trees with piles of rotten fruit lying beneath them, which to me says the owners are not interested in their harvest. For example, the Buddha’s hands that were on the table on Sunday were “foraged” from a tree in the neighborhood outside an office building, which was full of past withered specimens.

    I recently saw a large hand-lettered sign asking people not to pick the lemons off a front-yard tree in Berkeley … I hadn’t even been eyeing them but I felt guilty.

  3. We had a persimmon tree growing up and people would constantly come into our fenced yard and help themselves. A little annoying, especially when someone showed up with a paper shopping bag to fill!

  4. Fruit is just so darned expensive, and snagging a whole bag full of something is like gold. Only if there was rotted fruit under the tree would I consider foraging.

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