DEPAUL — Who is stealing the street planters in Lincoln Park?
The Sheffield Neighborhood Association reports that 10 of its 58 street planters throughout the area have been stolen — more than over the last four years combined.
Five were taken just in the last week, according to Laury Lewis, head of the association's Parks & Beautification Committee.
"Throughout the years, once in a while you get a planter stolen," he said. "But to have 10 of them in the last three weeks" is unusual.
It's no mere nuisance. The association budgets $22,000 a year for the planters. Each of the metal-frame planters placed throughout the neighborhood holds two planter inserts, weighing just under 100 pounds each, and Lewis estimated the raw cost of the materials at $150 each. What's more, local merchants pony up $400 a planter as sponsors for the program, so the association is obliged to keep them stocked and looking good.
"This has gotten serious," Lewis said. "The bottom line is this is out-and-out theft of private property."
Lewis suspects a rogue garden center or someone supplying garden centers and charging $150 or more for the inserts.
The thefts have become increasingly brazen. According to Lewis, there are two planters at Bissell Street and Armitage Avenue near Art Effect, one of the program sponsors, and one had its inserts stolen last week. Another had an insert lifted out and left on the street just Tuesday — indicating someone was trying to steal it before bailing for attracting too much attention.
Lewis sent a letter this week to 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith and 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins, both of whom serve the area, asking them for help in getting the Near North Police District to pursue the crimes, perhaps by seeking out surveillance video.
"Enough is enough," Lewis said.