Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin butter, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie.
It must be fall.
Those large orange globes are being harvested to occupy prime spots at farm markets, grocery stores and on front porches across neighborhoods in the Chagrin Valley. And just when the homeowner gets the display to perfection, BAM, pumpkin thieves grab the goods.
Recent police blotter items chronicle incidents of pumpkins disappearing late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. On Oct. 5, for example, Bainbridge police were called to a home on Bent Tree Lane where a neighbor reported unfamiliar cars around the neighborhood and teenagers taking a pumpkin from the front of a house.
These thieves are getting smarter and smarter. One resident said the teen walked backwards toward the porch so the doorbell security camera could not record his face. That owner didn’t want to press charges. Instead his request was for more police patrols to discourage speeding and reckless drivers. That same day, a Cottonwood Trail resident in Bainbridge reported multiple pumpkins stolen from a front porch.
Pumpkin thefts are not exclusive to the Chagrin Valley. In Portland, Oregon, Alex Gorodisher and Kara Goldhamer planted a pumpkin patch in their front yard. Mr. Gorodisher viewed it as an investment in happiness because people would walk by, hug the pumpkins and chat with the couple. Then the thieves arrived. The pair was disappointed. The next season, the couple wired the pumpkin patch so that an alarm sounded if a pumpkin was lifted from the ground. Sounds extreme, but the couple reported that the system ended the thefts. In Chagrin Falls and South Russell, some homeowners have been known to put out pumpkins with labels saying something like, “Take me,” or “Leave me be.” That preserves their holiday display and gives thieves pumpkins to tow.
Most Chagrin Valley residents suspect that many of the thieves are teens from Chagrin Falls High School looking to stockpile pumpkins for the annual October Pumpkin Roll on Grove Hill in downtown Chagrin Falls. Students smash the pumpkins to create a slimy surface, then use sleds, wading pools and other such things to ride down the hill. The tradition began in 1969 as a class prank. The class of 1969 took 69 for the roll. Upping the ante, the class of 1976 made off with 900 pumpkins for the event, according to local observers, and the class of 2018 supposedly had 2,300 pumpkins to smash for the ride down Grove Hill.
Some pumpkin pickers do get caught. On Oct. 8, a group of teens riding in a sport utility vehicle were spotted taking pumpkins from the front of a home in the Thornbury subdivision of Solon. The alarm on the motion detector at the front door went off, warning the homeowner who called police. The homeowner, a victim of pumpkin thefts last year, marked her pumpkins and identified them after police tracked down the teens’ vehicle with nine pumpkins in the cargo area. Now these four 17-year-old girls from Chagrin Falls and Moreland Hills face theft charges and will have to appear in juvenile court.
That’s too bad, because the girls could end up with a police record for stealing pumpkins.
True, taking the pumpkins is wrong, but some people cannot resist tradition. Maybe more residents can set out pumpkins to “donate” to the pumpkin roll cause. Or, maybe parents or the senior class could have a fundraiser to buy the pumpkins. Perhaps not as exciting as grabbing pumpkins, but it would keep the students out of trouble and preserve a tradition.