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Vandalism has The Gardens eyeing surveillance

After several acts of vandalism on his business property the owner of The Gardens in Elmira is working with another local company to make the scenic space more secure.

Last week the garden portion behind Mooder Horticultural Inc., the design and project management firm on Dunke Street, was broken into by unknown suspects. The perpetrators broke into a storage shed housing plants and supplies and threw them outside the building.

While he wants to keep The Gardens open to the public, Doug Mooder is taking steps to tackle the acts of vandalism inflicted on the Elmira site that showcases his landscape designs.
While he wants to keep The Gardens open to the public, Doug Mooder is taking steps to tackle the acts of vandalism inflicted on the Elmira site that showcases his landscape designs.

Though this is not the first break-in to occur at The Gardens, owner Doug Mooder is now looking to add video surveillance equipment to the site.

“I have to. I’ve got two kids at home: I can’t be sitting down here babysitting the place all the time,” said Mooder.

The Gardens is a plot of landscaped land featuring stonework, ponds, trees, shrubbery and creeks located behind the company’s office. An interactive outdoor space that offers potential customers a virtual display of the firm’s services, it also offers local residents a quiet and scenic space to enjoy from dawn until dusk. Though The Gardens are private property, Mooder allows the public to use the space free of cost during the day.

“The idea was to have this gate and it’s a public space and people can meander through and go home at dusk,” said Mooder. “It’s not a public park: it’s a lot of work to keep the place up, so it’s a lot harder when stuff gets smashed; it has a value and you have to put it all together.”

Mooder couldn’t provide a dollar amount of the damage caused by vandals but said that he and his crew spent a considerable amount of time repairing and putting everything back in order.

Police have no suspects at this point, but Mooder believes the perpetrators might have been late-night drinkers and revelers.

“As if some grandma is going to write that and break in here and throw plants around and go away,” said Mooder, alluding to drug references written in spilled fertilizer over the storage shed.

This is not the first time The Gardens have been broken into. Since its opening in the spring of 2007, the property has been trespassed numerous times, and ample amounts of beer bottles and garbage have been found strewn across the grounds. Utility trailers have been breached and tools stolen. Mooder is now in talks with MARCO 1049 of Elmira to install a high-tech camera surveillance system that will keep him up to date with images sent directly to his Blackberry.

He’s also planning on installing a larger fence gate at the east end entrance on Maple Street that will force visitors to enter by the front. Access to the soon-to-be monitored space will be exclusively via Dunke Street.

Mark Fletcher, CEO of MARCO 1049 said the new measures shouldn’t deter people from enjoying the gardens.

“Surveillance is becoming more and more common all over the place and I think a lot of people realize that surveillance isn’t put in there to necessarily monitor their actions; it’s to pick up the bad things,” said Fletcher, noting that urban centers like Toronto already feature video surveillance in public areas such as subway stations.

“If I’m not doing anything wrong I have nothing to worry about.”

For his part, Mooder hopes the new strategies will help him keep The Gardens open to the public.

“Everybody always said at first, ‘it’s inevitable, you’re going to have vandalism, it can’t be done’ and I was going on the premise that if something is extremely well kept and taken care of then they’re going to respect the effort that’s gone into it on behalf of the community … but it’s a few people, I know that there are a lot of people that aren’t causing any harm.”

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