TOKYO, Oct. 14 – Many theft cases of agricultural produce and equipment are reported nationwide after April when the government issued a state of emergency to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections.
The stolen items range from pigs, cattle, pears, apples, vegetables grown outdoors and harvested rice to beehives and tractors.
Since there are no statistics specifying theft in the farm sector, experts say grasping the scale of damage is indispensable to come up with countermeasures.
According to the National Police Agency data, the number of confirmed cases of criminal offenses totaled 278,619 between January and August this year, the lowest in the last five years.
Among them, the number of theft crimes declined more than 30 percent from the same period last year, as police strengthened efforts to crack down on crime and many stores temporarily shut down amid the spread of COVID-19 infections.
However, sources close to police investigators say they get the impression that thefts on farms, although not categorized as such in the statistics, have apparently increased compared with previous years.
In Ota, Gunma Prefecture, all the spinach grown inside a greenhouse were stolen in mid-April. In Hokkaido in the end of August, 100 kilograms of cherry tomatoes were taken away from a greenhouse in the city of Sunagawa and 100 kg of onions were stolen from a farm in the town of Ozora.
Thefts of livestock, mainly piglets, have also been taking place one after another. Starting with a total of 400 pigs stolen from a pig farm in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, between January and July, a total of nearly 900 piglets and calves were carried off from farms in Gunma and neighboring prefectures of Tochigi, Ibaraki and Saitama by September.
Security camera footage taken at the pig farm in Gunma showed three people trespassing and a minicar, while footage taken at a wagyu cattle farm in Tochigi showed three men tying the legs of a calf and stealing it away.
Theft of fruit, especially the high-class grape variety Shine Muscat, is reported in various areas, including the cities of Minami Alps in Yamanashi Prefecture, Suzaka in Nagano Prefecture and Kiyose in Tokyo.
Pears were stolen in the town of Kamikawa in Saitama and apples were taken away in the city of Aomori.
In the city of Takasaki in Gunma, a total of 1,650 pears and 200 bunches of Shine Muscat grapes were stolen from four farms in ten days.
Most of the captured suspects were arrested on the spot. In the city of Nakano in Nagano, two Vietnamese women who stole Shine Muscat grapes were found by a farm manager and one of them was arrested on charges of robbery resulting in bodily injury after allegedly biting the manager’s right arm.
In Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture, a 79-year-old man was arrested on the spot on suspicion of stealing Shine Muscat grapes.