HAREFIELD residents are holding back from decorating their houses with hanging baskets after a spate of thefts.
Between 20 and 30 baskets are believed to have been stolen from outside houses in the north of the village.
The baskets were taken from houses in Gilbert Road, Newdigate Road, Newdigate Road East and Northwood Road.
Malcolm Brown, of Newdigate Road East, said: "Well over 20 have been taken. It always seems to happen in the school holidays.
"One gentleman in the road has a life-threatening illness and now he has had his basket taken. It's not on."
Paul Stone, Harefield neighbourhood watch co-ordinator, said: "Unfortunately, it does happen each year. We warn people about it at our meetings and in our newsletters."
However he disagreed it was down to children and believed baskets were being stolen by thieves out to make a profit.
"They pop up at car boot sales and fairs. People buying them do not realise they
may have been stolen," said Mr Stone.
One resident, of Northwood Way, who asked to be known simply as Pete, said: "I used to hang my baskets up outside the house but they got taken.
"I can't believe it has reared its head again. We had a real problem once with it and I don't hang my baskets up now because of it.
"A couple of years ago it was pranksters having a laugh as around 20 baskets were found hanging on a tree near the green. It isn't funny, not to those who spend good money on the baskets to make their homes look nicer, only to have them nicked."
But people who appreciate a hanging basket can at least enjoy those in High Street. Councillor Henry Higgins, who spent some of his £25,000 ward budget on having them put in, said: "Some have now gone up, and more should be up around the village by the end of the summer.
"We've done a lot of work on the High Street recently and this is the finishing touch."
Sergeant Allan Moore, from Harefield Police Station, said: "I urge people to report thefts, and take steps to secure baskets in front gardens. It is people taking them to sell them on, at up to £50."