I must admit to a fascination with the odd things people steal. Forget cars, jewelry, i-pods, or identities: Today's WaPo has a piece about a ring of wheel thieves plaguing Waldorf, MD. Since the start of the year, some 14 residents have awakened to discover their vehicles parked precisely where they had left them the night before, but stripped of their wheels and propped up on blocks or landscaping stones. Police suspect that the perpetrators may be selling the stolen parts on the internet. How terrible--and yet, how enterprising. I'm sure it's vastly safer and easier to drive around jacking (not to mention later unloading) dozens of unmarked tires than it is to, say, break into someone's house and try to haul off their gi-normous, wall-mounted plasma TV. 

This vaguely reminded me of the September NYT piece about the growing trend out west of people's stealing solar-panels and reselling them online. Even criminals, it seems, are thinking green these days. 

Still, for pure creativity, nothing beats the story I recall from a year or two ago about a rash of local landscaping thefts. (Can't find it online. Sorry. It's possible I heard it from my long-time realtor pal.) In that instance, a small band (or possibly bands) of thieves were cruising upscale Beltway neighborhoods in trucks, digging up expensive trees and shrubbery from people's yards, and presumably selling them to area landscapers for replanting. At the time I thought: How weird would it be to have a Japanese Maple vanish from your frontyard one night, only to have a suspiciously similar looking tree turn up down the block a week later? What do you do? Confront your neighbor? His gardener? Ask to examine the tree for identifying marks? Steal it back but plant it out of sight in your backyard?

Necessity being the mother of invention, I'm wondering what strange new trends in thievery will emerge as this recession grinds on.  

And now, because I've managed the improbable feat of using the word "shrubbery" in a blog post:


--Michelle Cottle