Council microchips plants

Thefts from flower beds across East Devon prompt new initiative

Plant thefts have prompted East Devon District Council to use the latest technology to protect its flower beds from green-fingered villains.

In a new initiative, the council has started microchipping plants.

The microchips, similar to ones used in pets, are being used randomly in floral displays across the district and could save the local authority thousands of pounds a year.

“Plant thefts have been a problem this year. It has been a bit dispiriting and a waste of council tax payers’ money,” said Mark Pollard, the council’s parks development officer.

“Microchips have come down in price and now only cost a matter of pence, making it feasible for us to use them as a deterrent.

“They last forever, even if the plant dies.”

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Mr Pollard, 51, who has worked for the council for eight years, said each microchip has a unique 14 digit number.

“If someone is found with one of our plants, there can be no argument - it is definitely stolen goods,” he said. “And the reading technology for microchips is all over the place.

“Shrubs and bedding plants have been stolen and specimen plants have been targeted.

“People carrying out these thefts know what they are looking for. We suspect they are gardeners or people stealing to sell the plants on.”

More than 50 heather plants were stolen from the grounds of the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, in Honiton. They disappeared within months of being planted.

“That is 50 to 60 plants gone from just one site,” said Mr Pollard.

Other thefts have occurred in Axminster, Exmouth and Sidmouth. Council workmen were busy replacing stolen plants from a display outside the Co-op in Axminster last week.