RAVENSWOOD — Gardeners are used to dealing with squirrels, aphids and other creatures destroying their plants. But one Ravenswood woman learned her garden pest was a grown man caught on video raiding her porch for potted herbs last week.
Ravenswood neighbor Carrie Baumann-Matta woke up around 6 a.m. Friday and found her basil, dill, thyme and lettuce and the clay pots she’d planted them in were gone from the front steps of her home in the 4900 block of North Winchester Avenue, she said.
She went to work wondering what happened and later that day asked her husband to check the front door camera’s video footage for clues, she said.
That was when the couple discovered a man who walked off with four of her potted plants around 3 a.m. Friday morning, she said.
The man walked onto the property and sat on the family’s front steps for about a minute, according to Baumann-Matta and footage provided to Block Club. Eventually, he gets up and looks around for several seconds, before picking up two of the potted plants and herbs and walking away through the family’s front gate.
Apparently unsatisfied with the haul, he comes back to grab two more plants before walking away again. The footage shows the man looking in the direction of the family’s surveillance camera several times.
“We did have a little giggle because he put his face right in the basil and gave it a sniff,” Baumann-Matta said. “Did he need to make a Margherita pizza at 3 a.m.?”
Since the theft, Baumann-Matta has posted flyers using images of the man from the video footage around the neighborhood and filed a police report with the aim of warning other neighbors of the late-night plant pilferer, she said.
“If you’re going to be that brazen — look I know nothing will come of this, but this makes me feel better,” she said.
Police confirmed to Block Club they’d received a report and video footage of a man approaching the front steps of Baumann-Matta’s home around 3:15 a.m. Friday and taking the four flower pots.
No offenders are in custody and detectives are investigating, police said.
The man was wearing a dark blue baseball cap, dark blue shirt with white lettering and dark blue shorts with a horizontal white stripe pattern near his hips. The man is also wearing a black wristwatch on his left hand, a black wristband on his right hand and flip flops, according to the footage.
Plant thieves aren’t new to Chicago.
In 2015, the owner of a Lincoln Park salon warned neighboring businesses after surveillance video of a plant theft made her realize the culprits were likely stealing more than greenery from the area.
In 2019, a man walked into the front yard of an Albany Park home and yanked one of the neighbor’s prized flowers out of the ground. That same year, police arrested two men on felony theft charges in connection with potted plants and trees stolen from a West Town neighbor.
Clearing neighbors banded together in 2021 after home surveillance video captured a woman stealing $130 worth of plants and pots, CBS reported.
Baumann-Matta has lived in the neighborhood for the past 10 years, she said. While the herbs are inexpensive to replace, the pots they were in range from $40-60, she said.
“Usually around Memorial Day, I bring them all out and plant them. Sometimes in the fall I switch them out to mums and them put them away for the winter,” she said. “… On our whole block, almost everybody has pots out. And that was part of why I put flyers out, too. To warn them that there’s someone roaming around taking the pots off of porches.”
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