Honesty box thefts leave sour taste

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 07:19 13/01/2014
Bob Crum
Derek Flynn

Bitter fruit: Bob Crum and Jennie Crum of Windsong Orchard in Renwick have had their honesty box broken into twice recently.

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Marlborough orchard owners are bolting down their honesty boxes after a rise in thefts in the past month.

Hundreds of dollars in cash and fruit has been stolen from a stall at Windsong organic orchard in Renwick.

Owner Jennie Crum said it was the first time money had been stolen from the honesty box in the 10 years they had owned the orchard.

About $160 dollars had been pinched from the box on two separate occasions just before Christmas.

The third time the thieves took the entire box, even though it had been screwed down.

It was later found in a rugby field nearby. The culprits had not managed to get inside the box, which had now been bolted down to the stall, Mrs Crum said.

Fruit was also being taken, with bags of plums and blueberries pinched on Tuesday last week.

"They just clean you out," Mrs Crum said.

"It really adds up. This is a fairly base way of making a living and every bit counts."

She now goes out hourly to check on the stall.

She was most upset about the dishonesty factor, she said. "We rely on community honesty," she said. "I don't want to live in a community where I don't trust anyone. I was pretty hurt."

It was disappointing people felt they could help themselves.

"We work hard here. All the stars have to line up for a good season and then they go and steal it."

She and husband Bob Crum were grateful to the majority of their customers who were honest, she said.

Pot Shed owner Melisa Bassett said she had noticed an increase in dishonesty rates at this time of year with more traffic on the roads, but it had never been this bad.

She sold gerberas on a cart outside the Rapaura Rd shop with an honesty box for payment.

Last month, thieves ripped the box off the cart and stole the whole thing. The next time Mrs Bassett saw the thief in action as he prised open the lid of the box in broad daylight and pocketed the cash.

An 18-year-old had been arrested in relation to the incident, she said.

On Wednesday last week, five men were seen helping themselves to strawberries at Sommerville Orchard on Murrays Rd.

Owner Rhys Williams said he was getting fed up with people targeting rural areas.

"We're all thinking of going into grapes," he said.

He believed the shortage of cherries this season had made the fruit more of a commodity and more enticing to thieves.

"It's not taking a wee bit of fruit," he said. "People are stealing to order."

The rural community had learnt to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and kept an eye out for their neighbours, he said.

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- The Marlborough Express

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