Get your tree related questions answered by our knowledgable members!

Post a question or a topic for discussion in the forum below

How common is tree vandalism?

A recent news article on about trees cut down by vandals in a City of Raleigh park prompted me wonder how common a problem is this and what are communities doing to prevent or reduce incidents of vandalism of city-owned trees.  Has your community experienced vandalism against trees, were the vandals caught and if so what penalties did they face, and what is your community doing to try to reduce vandalism?  Your responses could help other communities facing this issue.

You need to be a member of American Grove to add comments!

Join American Grove

Email me when people reply –


  • There seems to be two types of vandalism - casual (e.g., kids walking by a tree and pulling the leaves off one branch, to breaking off a few limbs cause they can).  Purpose drive vandal - just getting back at someone (neighbor or the City) or acting out anger - they can cause lots of damage. 

    In one case a kid, showing off to his buddies, drove down the planting strip knocking over 20 trees in a row.  These trees were planting by the kids from the school adjacent to the trees.  The vandal was caught.  The prosecutor asked for the cost of the vandalism.  It was over $1,000 so a felony.  I worked with the prosecutor to give the vandal the choice between a felony or purchase the trees, plant the trees, and water the trees for a year.  He did the replant and watering.  And the school kids also got a valuable lesson. 

  • We have occasionally had trees damaged by patrons in our parks.  We have had someone "mark" trees  with a hatchet and it did not heal - the tree dies.  I have personally witnessed an adult telling the child it's ok to pull young sapling over to hang on for a picture and this ofcourse ruins/kills the trees and leaves a bigger problem and more work for these 5+ yr old young trees.  In that case I have had a serious but politically correct talk with the people.  Other than that we have no recourse to my knowledge.


  • I have heard about tree vandalism on-line, but never otherwise.  I would assume that destruction of property is a crime just about everywhere so I would think that it would be covered by existing laws.

    If I were to guess, I would guess that a lot would depend on the awareness of trees in that community.  No awareness, no problem with vandals cutting down trees.  On the other hand, if I could suggest a punishment to fit the crime, in addition to monetary damages, I would sentence vandals to plant some number of trees as part of their community service.

    Lets hope stories like this one are isolated.

  • We have incidents here and there in MA, but not on any kind of large scale. Boston had someone stealing burls in 2012 (later caught) and in a few other cities I have seen destruction of newly-planted trees--street trees, trees at a school, and shrubs at a daycare. 

    Also on the topic of vandals--Anyone catch the story out of DC this week? Over 750 trees were vandalized in a few neighborhoods. Twitter helped spread the word of the destruction and the media, residents, and police got involved and caught the vandal, but not before lots and lots of senseless destruction.


    Read sad the post here: DCist Tree Vandal

  • I never had any take my tree gators or ooze tubes, some broken limbs in trees near ball fields, graffiti a few times, but in all my time I have had only a few problems I have had I would call 'vandalism'.  I have had several newly planted trees cut down and found out after replanting they obstructed someones view or they thought it would make them sneeze.  That was fixed by moving the tree or talking to them.

    Had someone cut a burl off my historic oak tree when I was in TN.  We never caught them but did notify all the media and woodworkers in the area so whoever did it couldn't market it as burlwood from a historic tree and not get arrested.

    A highway planting I did was cut down by the contract mowing crew but the state wouldn't pursue it.  I don't mean mowed down... I mean they used a saw and cut them down ignoring the signs about the planting. Not really vandals but did it because they were mad over my opinions of their mowing quality. 

    Had a car run down 30+ trees in a park in ABQ.... didn't catch them either :( 

    Both places said they would prosecute and charge cost of tree, cost of planting plus cost of re-establishment until same size.  The burl would have been a felony due to value of item

  • Over ten years ago I planted a one inch plus white oak in a fantastic location near our neighborhood park with permission from the City. Over the next two years it was pulled out of the ground 3 times. Since I walk past it frequently on my way to work, each time I was able to retrieve it from down the hill in the creek and then proceeded to replant it, always wondering if it would survive. Today it is a six inch plus tree. When it comes to vandalism, if possible it is best to perservere and show it matters more to me than those getting pleasure from doing it. Of course, I got a lot help from the tree!

  • We have an active Tree Mitigation program - intended to offset tree damage and/or unauthorized removals. These Tree Mitigations require the installation of new trees and the ordinance might require - for example - either twenty (20) 12' x 6' x 3" caliper DBH trees, or ten (10) 16' x 8' x 4" caliper DBH (in other words a "two-for-one" ratio). We tried the 12' trees, and would find trunks snpped or otherwise damage. So we now only accept the 16' x 8' x 4" caliper DBH tree size, and the vandalism issue no longer presents.

  • Fortunately we have little damage due to vandalism, we deal more with people hitting trees with vehicles. However, in either scenario, if an individual is caught we issue a summons and base the monetary penalty on appraised value. It is in our City Code dealing with destruction of City owned property.

This reply was deleted.