Christmas thieves be warned - we’re better prepared

Welford Christmas tree farm
Welford Christmas tree farm
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A GARDEN centre that had 100 Christmas trees stolen last year has warned thieves that this year it is ‘better prepared’

Silver Springs Garden Centre in Titchfield has stepped up its security and has taken its first delivery of festive firs.

The news follows Hampshire Constabulary launching Operation Tinsel in a bid to prevent thefts through marking the trees with a tracking fluid called smart water and advising retailers on how to be more secure.

Silver Springs’ partner Shaun Whitton said that the scheme was ‘too little, too late’ and claimed that despite being one of the hardest hit businesses last year, the centre is yet to receive any advice or offers of smart water from the police.

‘We have had to do everything off our own backs to make the centre more secure,’ said Mr Whitton.

Despite the lack of police advice, the centre has ramped up its CCTV, installed brighter security lights, fortified the boundaries and introduced a 24/7 guarded presence.

Last year, a gang of thieves broke in through a neighbour’s boundary in the early hours of the morning and took the trees.

They even tried to steal the garden centre’s vans so that they could take more.

Other Christmas tree retailers in Wickham, Fleet and Sherfield-on-Lodden were also targeted by thieves.

Silver Springs sells around 400 Christmas trees a year, many of those going to schools, pubs and hotels.

Louise Dilworth, supervisor at Silver Springs, said: ‘Trees can be sold on any street corner, what we need here is more police presence, not smart water.’

Christmas trees are attractive to thieves because they can sell them on with very little hassle as retailers do not need to have a licence or papers to prove where the trees have come from.

Mr Whitton said: ‘The police can come up with whatever initiatives they like but until they tackle the problem of licensing sellers, then these thefts will continue.’