Plants chipped to trap thieves

Floral displays in Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton will be fitted with microchips in a bid to deter green fingered villains.

East Devon District Council has launched the high-tech scheme after its flowerbeds were hit by a spate of thefts.

Identification chips will be fitted at random to valuable plants across the district, meaning that, if they are stolen to be sold on, officers will be able to identify them using a scanner.

Each chip has a unique 14 digit number, guaranteeing that stolen plants can be identified.

The council is hoping that preventing plant thefts will save taxpayers thousands of pounds a year.

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

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

Mr Pollard said that plants were not being stolen at random, but were being targeted by specialists.

“Heathers 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.”