An empty drive speaks volumes to the burglar, it says you're not at home but what is more startling is that an unkempt garden, a garden poorly tended also tells the burglar this too. How? A worrying trend over the last few years has seen a link between burglaries and poorly kept gardens. There has, at the other end of the spectrum been a definite link between those who seek to protect their properties through burglar alarms, high fences and window guards being heavily targeted by burglars. Why? The people who do this have sent a powerful message, it says: 'We want to protect what we have but we are never at home'. It as the essay Residential Burglaries by Feike Aantjes (Universiteit Twente, 2012) states proof of an 'absence of guardianship' leading to 'no possibility of intervention'.
A poorly kept garden, an empty drive also acts in the same 'absence of guardianship' meaning that a burglar will often face no threat from homeowners. Aantjes argues for 'A well kept garden with clear boundaries' as this 'is proof for offenders that the owners attend to their assets and are more likely to intervene in case of unwanted behavior' (source Centrum voor Criminaliteitspreventie en Veiligheid, 2008; Cozens, 2008). Tend your front garden, make it beautiful and the message is clear: 'This is not a house, it is a home and we'll protect it'.
This trend between 'absence of guardianship' and the 'well kept garden' has come to the forefront in the UK in the last few years, with some Homewatch schemes and police advocating that homeowners tend their front gardens. Beyond the statistics stated in the Aanjtes essay there is another compelling reason to embrace your front garden, which again is linked to crime in the community.
We learnt this at Drovers, by being tending our front garden we got to know our neighbours, they saw what we were doing and started to tend their own front gardens. Originally, only two houses on the block tended their front gardens in 1999, when we left in 2009 there was only one house in the whole hamlet that didn't tend their front garden. We saw the decline of crime and anti-social behaviour but what was more important is that our neighbours got to know us, see us, and they knew who should be in our front garden. That is a common problem in burglaries that when neighbours are questioned as possible witnesses they are often unaware of the people who live the houses around them. They literally couldn't pick out their neighbours from a line up with the burglar. Now consider that, consider your front garden and think about whether you could name or recognise your neighbours, not just your immediate neighbours but the ones down the road, the ones five doors down, the ones around the corner. So, maybe it is time to push the car back onto the road, dig up the block paving and create a garden that is well tended, that will open up a conversation between you and your neighbours. Then sit back on your deckchair, chat to those who pass and watch the ripple effect as your neighbours try to keep up with the greening of your community. Front gardens are one of the keys to creating communities rather than estates.