With its hundreds of flowering plants surrounded by a decorative wrought iron fence, the Cottage Garden in Mark Luther King Park is an inner-city oasis.
Lumon Ross visits the garden on a regular basis, as do many residents who live in the Fillmore-Best area. They sit on tree-shaded benches, watching monarch butterflies and admiring the colorful flora.
But as they entered the garden Friday, they saw dozens of holes in garden beds. For the fourth time this summer, bandits had removed many of the plants, taking special care to preserve the root systems. The latest heist occurred Wednesday.
Ross, who heads the Western New York Black Chamber of Commerce, joined officials from the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy in urging residents to be on the lookout.
"This is a people's park, and it's up to all of our residents and organizations to be aware and vigilant," Ross said.
Masten District resident Florentina Dozier said her family frequently visits the picturesque park.
"I think it's awful," she said.
The fact that thieves would target such a "gorgeous" community asset is sad, Dozier said.
"This is our neighborhood. We want to keep it nice," she said.
Richard A. Cummings would like to see the city expand its video surveillance system in the park.
A surveillance camera installed near the Buffalo Museum of Science may have provided some important evidence in the latest plant theft. The camera captured an image of a white pickup with a red canopy, said Otis N. Glover, the conservancy's strategic initiatives and external affairs officer.
The flower bandits knew exactly what they were doing. They carefully extracted many of the unique plants, which the conservancy grows in greenhouses. The thieves took everything from red eye geraniums and coleus, to different types of hosta plants.
"They were selective," Glover said. "They knew what they wanted. They were knowledgeable gardeners."
Conservancy officials and Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith implored residents to immediately contact police if they see suspicious vehicles, noting that vehicles owned by the conservancy are clearly marked.
"We're really upset about yet another attack on our beautiful historic landscapes," said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, the conservancy's president and chief executive officer.