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Apple thieves worming into Londonderry

Union Leader Correspondent

September 03. 2014 12:05AM
A section of Moose Hill Orchards along Pillsbury Road, near the town's historic complex, appeared quiet on Tuesday afternoon but police and farm staff said the area has been the site of ongoing apple theft over the years. Two incidents over the weekend serve as a reminder to locals to remain vigilant in reporting any suspicious activity in the orchards. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

LONDONDERRY — Thievery in the town’s apple orchards has been a recurring problem, and during the Labor Day weekend, police responded to several reports of fruit thefts.

“It’s definitely that season again,” Lt. Kevin Cavallaro said Tuesday. “And like always, we’re paying close attention to the orchards.”

At 1:30 p.m. Monday, a caller reported a car with Massachusetts plates dropping off a woman carrying empty bags before she made her way into an orchard on Pillsbury Road, across from Moose Hill School.

Farm Manager Mike Cross said he was notified by a caller, but found no one at the scene. The orchards are part of Moose Hill Orchards, owned by the Mack family.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday, a resident called police after spotting someone who appeared to be stealing apples from the orchard.

Sgt. Michael McCutcheon said a man and his wife had made a purchase in the Mammoth Road farm store and then stopped at the orchard, where the man picked an apple. Police counted the couple’s apples before giving them a verbal warning, McCutcheon said.

In October 2012, four Quincy, Mass., residents were arrested one evening after several witnesses reported seeing them “load their truck up with apples.” In September 2011, police arrested a couple from Boston after callers reported “a group of people in a purple Caravan stealing a bunch of apples.”

Cross said Tuesday that theft is a problem he expects to worsen once the orchard’s “U-Pick” opens Friday.

“It definitely hurts us,” Cross said. “The apples we’ll be selling over the next six or eight weeks is where we make most of the money to survive another year.”

A common method used by thieves is to purchase a single U-Pick bag, fill it with apples, dump those apples in their vehicle’s trunk when no one is looking, and fill it up again and again.

“The ones who want to steal seem to be the ones that park farthest away from the U-Pick stand,” Cross noted.

Farm officials said they’ve considered placing cameras inside the orchards.

“A lot of theft goes on when we’re open and we’re all so busy,” he said of orchard workers.

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