Growers in the Haspengouw region of eastern Belgium are being plagued by a new scourge: thieves. Extra police have been deployed to try and stop the theft but so far, little headway has been made in stopping gangs raiding orchards and farms. In one recent incident at a cherry plantation in Wellen, an unknown number of people stripped trees in the early hours, with hundreds of kilos of cherries taken under the cover of darkness.
“The security forces are doing their best to arrest the thieves, but the gangs are laughing at us,” says Peter Guilliams from Sint-Truiden, who found out on June 15 that the gangs are not afraid to use violence.
At the request of several farmers, police installed a surveillance camera in 2020 to trace license plates, but that clearly does not deter the criminals. The police zones of Sint-Truiden, Gingelom, Nieuwerkerken and Borgloon are aware of the problem. In the coming weeks, extra officers will patrol near the farms and orchards. In Borgloon, horse patrols from the federal police also make occasional passes although police chief Rohnny Maes realises that it is impossible to constantly observe the entire region. Potential thieves know that and choose cherries because they are easy to transport.