Tokyo residents fight burglars with flower power

Thu Jun 11, 2009 11:25pm EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters) - A Tokyo district plagued with burglaries has turned to planting flowers to beautify its streets and help stamp out crime.

"'Operation Flower' began about three years ago. By planting flowers facing the street, more people will be keeping an eye out while taking care of the flowers or watering them," said Kiyotaka Ohyagi, a Suginami City official.

"The best way to prevent crime is to have more people on the lookout."

Suginami, with a population of 528,800, saw a record 1,710 break-ins in 2002.

When a neighborhood watch group found that there were fewer burglaries in buildings on flower-lined streets, Suginami decided to kick off Operation Flower and asked volunteers to plant seeds on side streets and in front of their homes.

The flowers are part of a wider crime prevention campaign. The district also has 9,600 volunteer patrollers and 200 security cameras set up in areas where there are frequent break-ins. It also emails crime information daily to residents.

Suginami says its efforts have paid off, with the number of burglaries falling to 390 in 2008, down almost 80 percent from 2002.

"Our residents are very conscientious about preventing crime, and they are very active," Ohyagi said.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Chris Gallagher)