New Zealand avocado criminals on the prowl again

They come every year like clockwork. As winter starts to bite, and the summer produce hits its peak price point, the avocado thieves head out to pillage. They always have the same target. They usually have the same way of doing things;  in the dead of night, they go out to steal avocados.

For four years in a row, at the exact same time of year, New Zealand has been savaged by gangs of avocado thieves. Hayden Donnell sounds the alarm about the country’s most predictable crisis.

This year, their timing couldn’t be worse. Most New Zealanders are still reeling from the COVID-19 lockdown. The avocado thieves’ first illicit harvest happened in June, 2016. Some reports thought it would be an isolated issue. “The avocado crop is expected to be plentiful this year. When supply and demand of avocados is balanced again, the thefts probably won’t be as much of an issue,” postulated Joanna Fantozzi in The Daily Meal.

Fantozzi couldn’t have been more wrong. The pillaging kept coming. In 2017, The Guardian reported “thefts on a commercial scale”. Thousands of fruits were being shaken from their trees by what seemed to be a sophisticated criminal element.

Alasdair Macmillan, New Zealand community policing manager, talked about avocado theft in the media. In each of the last four years, the pillaging has taken place around June and July. Macmillan sees no reason the avocados will be spared this year. Another crime spree is, in all likelihood, on its way, he says. “The popularity of that fruit is growing. It’s a really sought-after commodity and all I can say is there’s nothing to suggest the thieves are not going to target it again this season.”

This year, he wants security to be a step ahead, though he won’t say what exactly that will entail. “Obviously you can’t actually say what we’re doing because the thieves will keep an eye out for it, if you know what I mean,” he says. “Like in the old days in the television programs with [crime] reconstructions, you’d show the fingerprint guys at work, and then the criminals all started wearing gloves.”


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