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Chaplain calls on Bermuda ‘to look at itself’ after thieves target gardeners’ harvest

Chaplain Kevin Santucci (File photograph)

A community gardening instructor whose students have been targeted by crop thieves has called on Bermuda “to look at itself”.

Kevin Santucci, a chaplain, who runs the Grow, Eat, Save programme designed to help amateur gardeners to become more self-sufficient, said he is devastated that the Devonshire-based garden has been raided again.

The theft is part of a growing trend of “night farming” that is affecting farmers and others who grow produce.

Mr Santucci told The Royal Gazette: “I think people are concerned with what is happening — people stealing food is becoming a serious problem.

“I think we can nip it in the bud if we make some adjustments towards our attitude, as a country, towards buying from people who are not authorised farmers or who do not have a licence.

“If they are not authorised, they should not be out there selling. It should be looked at very carefully.

“People are starting to get hip to it and are refusing to buy the foods from people coming around at random to sell.”

Fruit and vegetables were stolen from the Devonshire plot last Wednesday at about 8am. Police said that a male suspect was seen at the garden near Orange Valley Road before leaving on a motorcycle with a quantity of produce, including bananas.

He was described by police as having a light-brown complexion, being about 5ft 11in, weighing about 185lb with “salt-and-pepper” hair and aged about 60.

Mr Santucci said the thief, or thieves, have been visiting the garden on a regular basis, often coming several times a day when the gardeners were not present and taking their crops.

“They are working their schedule of stealing around the time that people are not in the garden,” Mr Santucci said. He added that cameras that had been installed were removed along with “No trespassing” signs.

“Who would do a thing like that? We, as a people, will not tolerate this here. The people who are part of the programme use the food for their own needs and are learning. We are responsible for them and make sure that they have a good harvest.

“For them to see their harvest gone, that hurts. You put all this effort into something you have never done before and someone comes and takes that success away from you — it’s unfair.”

Mr Santucci said the current cohort of students had been targeted more than any other class since the programme began in 2014.

He said some of the teachers in the class had started to question whether it was worth continuing.

He said: “I had to send a message to encourage them — every inch of what we do is worth it. Looking at it from that perspective, it has galvanised an interest in the leaders and they are still pressing on. People will do anything to break your stride and spirit but what we are doing is a good thing and we won’t allow them to do that.

“We are not the only group that is being targeted. All farmers are at their wits’ end. We need the help of the community to be eyes and ears. If you see something, say something, go to the authorities — it is time for us to speak up. Use your cameras, take your phone out. Reports ought to be made to the police.”

Directing his comments towards the thief, Mr Santucci added: “Do the right thing and turn yourself in, return the food to where you found it.”

Mr Santucci said he realised that food prices have gone up and that times were hard for many but stressed that it did not excuse stealing.

“Let’s work together, let’s not take from each other. This programme directly works to make people more self-sufficient. Whatever you need from us, if you need a helping hand, we want to be able to help the people of this country. On a weekly basis I give food away. I do my part with others to help others.”

Police inquiries are under way and any witnesses, particularly members of the public who may have photos or videos of suspicious individuals or activity in the Orange Valley Road, Devonshire, area are asked to call 211 or to e-mail 211@bps.bm.

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Published July 20, 2022 at 10:08 am (Updated July 20, 2022 at 10:08 am)

Chaplain calls on Bermuda ‘to look at itself’ after thieves target gardeners’ harvest

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