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Salem officials discuss ways to stop thefts at community garden

SALEM — The Conservation Commission is already looking at ways to ensure that next year’s harvest from the community gardens at Hawkins Farm ends up in the proper hands.

This past summer, there was a rash of vandalism and thefts at the farm that saw produce thieves taking advantage of the hard work of those who gardened the 24 plots at the community garden.

Overall, Conservation Commission member Joan Blondin said it was a good harvest for the year and that she and others are looking at ways to keep thefts down next year.

Blondin said she hopes the thefts don’t prevent gardeners from coming back next year.

“I talked to some of them, and I think I appeased them somewhat and they may come back next year,” said Blondin.

One of the gardeners did contact the police department, and the police did state they would increase surveillance and patrols at the garden next year, said Blondin.

“We are very grateful to them for that,” she said.

Police also suggested that the Conservation Commission purchase some trail cameras to record the vandals.

Blondin said the idea would likely be too expensive and that there might not be enough lighting at the garden to get a good identification from the videos.

She said the best way to approach the problem is by having more people, including herself, visible at the gardens.

In 2012, Blondin said she was at the garden three or four times per day and there wasn’t as large of an issue with theft.

“This year, I was not able to be as visible as I would have liked to,” Blondin said. However, she said she has talked to other gardeners about helping her provide more visibility next year.

Conservation Commission Chairman William Dumont applauded the efforts to get support from outside the commission.

“This really is a community project and not just a Conservation Commission project,” he said.

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