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'Who steals a tree?' Theft of Japanese maple caught on camera in Vancouver
VANCOUVER -- Hugo Huynh was going about his COVID-19-altered morning routine Monday when he noticed something was amiss.
"Out the corner of my eye, I noticed a hole in the ground," Huynh recalls. "I realized, 'Holy crap, my tree's missing.'"
It was 7 a.m., and he had just stepped outside for a moment before beginning a work-from-home shift.
He went back inside and checked his home surveillance camera. Sure enough, video showed that less than 30 minutes earlier, a grey minivan had pulled over outside his home.
In the video, a man gets out of the driver's side and walks around the front of the van. He opens the passenger-side door and puts a glove on his right hand. Then, he walks over to Huynh's two-year-old Japanese maple tree, grabs it by the trunk, and uproots it.
The thief then runs back to the van, stuffs the tree into the passenger's seat, gets back inside and drives off.
Huynh told CTV News Vancouver he's never seen the man who stole his tree before.
"Who steals a tree?" he asked.
Huynh posted the video on Reddit, where users were happy to answer that question with their own assertions that tree theft is rampant in Metro Vancouver.
Indeed, CTV News has reported on illegal tree cutting in Surrey in the past.
And, at least one other tree has been uprooted and stolen in the City of Vancouver in the last two weeks.
The Vancouver Park Board confirmed to CTV News that a ginkgo tree was recently stolen from Andy Livingstone Park, near Crosstown Elementary School. Park staff reported that the tree was missing on April 28.
Like Huynh's tree, the ginkgo tree appeared to have been uprooted. A photo from the scene showed a hole where the tree once stood, rather than a stump.
It's unclear whether the two thefts are related. Huynh reported the stolen Japanese maple to the Vancouver Police Department through its online crime-reporting tool.
On Thursday, he said he hadn't heard from police since filing his report, but he's not too upset about that. He said he knows police are busy dealing with more important issues, and he's making peace with the loss of his Japanese maple.
Huynh said he planted the tree himself two years ago, after finding it deeply discounted at a local plant sale.
"It was a crazy steal," he said. "It was only a $10 tree."
For its part, the VPD confirms it received Huynh's report and says an officer will be following up.
"As far as I know, these types of thefts are uncommon," said VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin in an email.
A spokesperson for the Vancouver Park Board said staff had not reported the ginkgo tree theft to police, adding that the theft of trees from city parks is "not common."