An unusual case in Stratford has police hoping to catch a green-thumbed thief red-handed.

Over the past month, more than a dozen trees have been reported stolen in the city.

Patrick O’Rourke discovered last week that he’d been a victim.

“There was a hole in the ground where we used to have about a six-foot-high weeping nootka cypress,” he says.

Down the street, Daniel Brooks made a similar discovery. His two Japanese maple trees had been dug up and removed, with the resulting holes filled back in.

“I thought one tree, fine, but when (my wife) told me there were two trees gone – then I said ‘I’m phoning the police. I’ve had enough of this,’” he says.

Stratford Police say they’re aware of 13 tree thefts, although they believe there may be some that haven’t been reported.

They’ve been able to recover seven of the trees and return them to their owners. O’Rourke’s cypress tree is part of that group. Brooks’ maples are not.

Insp. Sam Theocharis says the seven trees were found on a property in the central part of the city.

The owner of that property was co-operative, he says, and is not considered a suspect. It is believed that he purchased the trees without realizing where they came from.

“We’re following up several leads,” Theocharis says.

O’Rourke says he originally assumed the thefts were vandalism -- “the kind of thing kids would do” – but he changed his tune once he learned that rare and expensive trees seemed to be the most popular targets.

“It’s a quiet, peaceful neighbourhood – not the kind of place where you think someone’s going to come along and dig up your trees,” he says.

“Whoever did it was well-organized and came with the right tools.”

Brooks agrees, noting that replacing his maple trees would likely cost around $400.

With reporting by Marc Venema