“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. Ready or not, here I come.”

That was so much fun. Unless you were wearing red or the friendly neighborhood dog was barking at you, your hiding place in the bushes was perfect. Childhood games aside, a stranger lurking in the greenery around your home is just plain scary.

Start with a security survey

When landscaping, we usually envision dazzling healthy plants perhaps with colorful blooms. We don’t see them as sanctuary for those who wish to rob or threaten us. As gardeners, we think about the space that plants will need to grow, the amount of sunshine the plants will need or perhaps about available space necessary for pruning or upkeep.

As for home security, there are many other things to consider. Senior Victoria Police Officer Adam Banda said a good place to start is the Victoria Crime Prevention Unit Home Security Survey.

“This survey is provided free upon request from the Victoria City Police Department,” said Banda, who serves with the crime prevention unit. Homeowners shouldn’t be shy about calling 361-485-3808 for an inspection. Trained officers will make a thorough study listing everything you need to do to make your home secure. Once your home passes inspection, you may even qualify for a homeowners insurance discount.

Eyes of a burglar

Remember, those who wish to rob your home examine your landscaping through “burglar eyes.” They look for overgrown shrubs and vines near a door or backyard gate and tall trees to help them enter a two-story home. Plants that cover up windows provide easy cover for would-be perpetrators.

Police officers also have “eyes,” only as they patrol our neighborhoods at night they are hindered by overgrown shrubs, clutter, tall privacy fences and lack of light.

  • Landscape heights

The rule of thumb is tree limbs should hang no lower than 7 feet above the ground, and shrubs should stand no taller than 3 feet. If the shrubs have to be taller, make sure there is a clearance of at least a foot at the bottom.

  • Fencing

Unfortunately, there is no way a police officer can see beyond a tall privacy fence, which have been the norm in subdivisions for decades. Chain-link and picket-type fencing makes it easier for neighbors to keep an eye on anything suspicious on adjoining properties. “We have traded security for privacy,” Banda said.

Shed a light on crime

With this in mind, Banda said lighting is an extremely important safety element.

  • Lighting good; security cameras even better

Adding outdoor security cameras is even better. Criminals don’t like the idea of being easily seen, taped and identified.

We need lighting for our protection, and for adding that extra zing to our nighttime landscape. For example, consider “up-lighting” on the plants around your home. It is the perfect way to show-off your vegetation while protecting your property at the same time.

  • Types of lighting and bulbs

“Ideally, you should have floodlights on each corner of your house or at the center of your home front and back you can install a fixture with two lights pointing in opposite directions,” Banda said.

He stressed the floodlights are particularly important for carports and driveways since vehicular burglary is the most common crime in Victoria.

Banda suggested homeowners purchase bulbs that replicate daylight and recommended homeowners consider leaving these lights on “24-7” to make sure they are on when needed. When shopping for bulbs look for those with energy-saving designations.

Take a bite out of crime

Banda smiled when asked about recommending plants for security. “I know nothing about gardening,” he said, adding he sees nothing wrong with an imaginative gardener who makes breaking and entering a painful experience.

  • Plants that protect with thorns

Remember, hide and seek wasn’t much fun when the shrubs had thorns or the leaves had rough edges. There are numerous handsome thorny plants – many Texas natives – that may be placed in front of windows and likely places where a burglar would jump a privacy fence.

The popular, hardy Knock Out Rose, for instance, would be very painful to jump into and is readily available. Some antique climbing roses and bougainvillea hedges are armed with long, pointed thorns.

  • Plants with serrated or toothy leaves

They along with shrubs harboring serrated or toothy leaves like sago palm or some ferns or alocasia will give criminals a sharp reminder that crime does not pay.

Report suspicious, out-of-the-ordinary

Remember, landscapes should be your private oasis in nature, not one for a possible perpetrator. Always be conscious of your surroundings and don’t be afraid to report anything that looks suspicious or out-of-the-ordinary at your home or your neighbors’ houses.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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