Detroit Area Police Baffled By Tree Thefts

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Deborah Totzkay of Detroit’s Pleasant Ridge suburb, has a sign in her garden: “NEIGHBORS BEWARE On June 17th, my Japanese Maple was stolen. Protect yours!” Her $150 dwarf Japanese maple — a 3-year-old, 3-foot tree with flower-like mahogany leaves — was stolen from her lawn in broad daylight

The Detroit Free Press reports that pricey trees and shrubs are being unearthed and stolen across the country. The crimes are stumping police, prompting victims to blame the black market and sprouting a Web site in Great Britain that promotes shrubbery security. In Arizona, the plant of choice is cactus. In California, it’s small palm trees. In metro Detroit and beyond, it’s Japanese maples. The tree can sell from less than $100 to more than $1,000.

Fourteen newly planted yew shrubs, weighing 60 pounds apiece and worth a total of $1,200, were stolen from a Livonia, Mich., construction site in May. It’s tough to catch the culprits green-handed, said Sgt. Stan Muszynski of the Shelby Township Police Department.

Totzkay and others suspect there is a black market to resell the trees. Shrubbery thefts have prompted a British company to list protection tips on its Web site at


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