CRIME TEAM: Defensive gardening can protect your home

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Defensive gardening is a method of landscaping that can, not only help with visual appeal, but also keep your home from becoming a target of criminals.

Eric Clark is a horticulturalist at Civano Nursery with more than 30 years under his belt.

Clark said an average of three people a week come in with questions about defensive gardening.

"There's a lot of plants that will suggest 'Do not enter this area. This area is off limits,'" Clark said.

Thorns from a mesquite tree. (Source: Wikipedia)

If you're looking for trees and shrubs to do the trick, he likes the native mesquite tree.

"These are really going to go through a shoe," Clark said while pointing at the tree's thorns.

He also suggests a pyracantha near the windows to keep away unwanted visitors.

"Pyracantha is Latin for firethorn. 'Pyra' is fire, 'catha' is thorn. So if you get stabbed by these firethorns, you're going to know it. They're all over the plant," Clark said.

A firethorn pyracantha. (Source: Public Domain Pictures)

He said rose bushes, cacti and even ocotillo fencing are options to keep in mind as well. Clark also said plant things on both sides of a fence or wall if possible. This will keep people from jumping in or out.

When picking out plants or shrubs to use, Clark said it's important to pick plants that won't grow too big.

"It makes a really good hiding spot for criminal and thieves. You might want to steer away from using those bigger bushes," Clark said.

Less Inviting Targets

The Tucson Police Department has responded to more than 2,000 break-ins across the city in the past six months.

Kara Curtis, a community officer said she suggests defensive gardening to victims of break-ins.

She said this type of gardening helps to make your home the least appealing for a criminal.

"You want to make it look kept," Curtis said. "I think they're opportunistic. They'll go down and look at homes through a neighborhood and look and pick out the ones that they think are easy targets and that nobody's watching."

Ballet Rincon, a studio on the southeast side uses prickly plants to keep unwanted visitors away. The studio has long windows along one of the walls.

"We loved the idea that there could be daylight coming into the studio. And that it would be a really nice atmosphere for the community to have a ballet school here," said Jennifer Neuser, owner of Ballet Rincon.

But with more than 250 students coming and going six days a week, Neuser said she wanted the space to also be as private and safe as possible.

"We have a lot of young children coming through the neighborhood and dancing in this space and there are windows there without window coverings," Neuser said. "But we wanted to make sure the property and the children would be safe. And especially after hours when there is no one there."

Neuser was able to make the area with windows unwelcoming to criminals with the help of some desert plants.

"We have the wall around the landscaping and all the cactus to obscure the view but make it a little prickly," Neuser said.

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