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Garden center revamps security plans

Date: 8/2/2010

Aug. 2, 2010

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SIXTEEN ACRES -- Sixteen Acres Garden Center will be taking new measures to ensure safety at the business in the wake of two incidents of arson in the company's front parking lot since May.

The garden center, located at 1359 Wilbraham Rd., will install security cameras and change some company procedures in order to prevent further incidents and to help authorities identify perpetrators should any future problems arise.

"We will be setting up surveillance equipment," Business Manager Judith Bordenuk said. "We're very concerned about people getting hurt and we want to ensure everyone's safety."

Bordenuk said the plan is to add surveillance to all areas of the garden center. The business sits on a 10-acre lot, according to the store's Web site. Most of the company's property, including the nursery and greenhouses, is surrounded by a 10-foot chain-link fence and barbed wire with the gates locked after hours. However, the parking lots, the business offices, a barn and the front of the main store are not fenced.

In addition, all company vehicles will be kept under lock and key behind those gates during non-business hours.

The added security is in response to two separate incidents -- one in May and the other in July -- involving vehicles parked on company property being targeted by individuals throwing containers filled with gasoline and lit with a rag, also known as a Molotov cocktail. Both incidents occurred after store hours and neither vehicle was actually hit.

The most recent incident occurred at approximately 2:05 a.m. on July 24. A 911 call was placed to report a small fire in the parking lot of the garden center. Springfield Police were the first to arrive, finding a Molotov cocktail, burning on the ground in front of a house on the property, which serves as the company's business offices.

"The police were the first to get to the scene," Springfield Fire Department Spokesperson Dennis Leger said. "When they got there, they saw a Molotov cocktail burning on the ground. They were able to put out the fire with a small fire extinguisher kept in one of the cruisers."

The Fire Department Bomb and Arson Squad was called and according to Leger, the makeshift explosive was recovered in one piece.

Leger added that a white Chevrolet pickup truck parked at that location appears to be the target of the arsonists. He noted that the truck also appeared to have been "pelted with eggs." Bordenuk confirmed that the truck was a company-owned vehicle.

Leger declined to comment on any aspects of the investigation, such as the possibility of extracting fingerprints from the bottle, because investigation procedures are not a matter of public record.

The earlier incident occurred on May 16 when a Molotov cocktail was thrown at, but missed, a 1997 Honda parked at the same location. According to Bordenuk, the car was left there overnight by an employee because it would not start.

Bordenuk said that while the two incidents could be unrelated, the company has decided to err on the side of caution.

"It happened in the same spot twice, which has to make you think," Bordenuk said. "It could be a couple of random acts, but you can't take any chances."

Bordenuk said that she had no idea who might be responsible for the arsons, adding that the garden center is a long-standing, well-liked business in a community that is usually not prone to this type of crime.

The garden center, which has done business at the same location since 1962, has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau since 1988 with an A-plus rating and zero complaints in the last three years, according to the Bureau's Web site.

Bordenuk stressed how important it was for "the public to keep a watch and report anything suspicious."

Anyone with any information regarding this or any other arson should contact the Arson and Bomb Squad at 787-6370.