Night farmers’ stealing into the thousands
Thefts from farms have increased since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, farmers confirmed on Tuesday.
Rowland Hill Jr, the owner of J&J Produce in Devonshire, said his operation had suffered from “night farmers” for several years and the problem had worsened since the pandemic hit in March.
He said thieves stole about $2,000 worth of produce a week and that he had caught a repeat offender yesterday.
Mr Hill said: “I try to give people a chance — three weeks ago the police had him in custody and I didn’t press charges because I wanted to give him a chance.”
However, he added that, despite his act of kindness, he later saw the same man at his farm and had to chase him off. Mr Hill was speaking after Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, told the House of Assembly last Friday that officials had noticed a spike in thefts from farmers’ fields.
He warned that the ministry planned to ramp up their oversight of agricultural land to deter raiders.
But Mr Hill said that it was “almost impossible” to police all of the farms on the island.
He added: “There are over 550 fields in Bermuda — they can’t be everywhere.”
Mr Hill said that many of the thieves who targeted farms stole to pay for a drug habit.
He added that rehabilitation programmes had to get involved to make a difference.
Mr Hill said: “There’s no easy solution, but if there’s something that could be done it’d be through drug programmes.”
He added: “I understand there’s a problem and that people can’t eat, but if you can’t eat, just call me.
“If you’re stealing to support a drug habit that’s where I have a problem.”
Tom Wadson, the owner of Wadson Farms in Southampton, said that he had seen an increase in thefts around March, but added that the problem had been “out of control” since December last year. He said: “People have gotten bored and they think it’s a total struggle to go to the grocery store.
“There are some people who are bored, but there are also people who have to steal to support an expensive drug habit.” Mr Wadson said that many crops were at present in season, which presented a tempting target for raiders.
He added that thieves found farmers easy to exploit because their produce was out in the open.
Mr Wadson said: “A friend of mine has a crop of tomatoes growing and as soon as people see them coming in they think that it’s fair game, but it’s not — that’s that man’s property.”
Mr Wadson said that he was willing to supply quality soil to people interested in growing their own vegetables.
But he added that he could not tolerate theft.
Mr Wadson said: “Farmers are very open — there’s a few things that sometimes we can spare and give away — but we can’t have people coming on to the farm.”
Police did not respond to a request for comment.
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