DROP those cherries, you’re under arrest. Crops and cops are converging along Spain’s journey through economic crisis: people enduring hardship are stealing the earth’s bounty from farmers to help get by from day to day.
Police have added the patrolling of farmland, sometimes on horseback, to their list of daily tasks. Farmers in some areas are teaming up to carry out night-time patrols of their own.
In villages near farming areas, several thousand paramilitary Civil Guards, regional and local police are even setting up checkpoints to sniff out not drugs or drunken drivers, but stolen fruit or farming equipment.
The Civil Guard says sometimes its officers mount “cage operations”, sealing off whole villages to check cars and trucks for, say, pilfered pears.
The stolen goods are mainly for resale: the food ends up in small roving street markets and the metal goes to scrap dealers.
Last year alone more than 20 000 thefts were reported at Spanish farms. The Interior Ministry says it has no comparative figures from other years, or for this year to date.
Authorities and farm groups blame the thefts on the economic crisis and say they are enough of a problem for the patrols, which began last season, to stay in force.
In Sant Climent, a village outside Barcelona, the loot is cherries: dark red, shiny and sweet, dangling like ornaments from stubby trees. – Sapa-AP