THREE young men are under arrest for stealing more than a tonne of grapes from vineyards in the south-west region of Murcia.
The Guardia Civil’s rural crime squad launched operation ‘Videiera’ in September to coincide with the start of the grape-picking season as part of a plan to prevent robberies from farms and rural properties.
There had been a series of reports from grape growers in the Bajo Guadalentin region that thieves were getting away with some of their crops.
Investigators carried out an analysis of the robberies, taking into account factors like the dates the grapes were ready for picking, the varieties of the grapes, the location of the properties from where they were taken and the access roads.
Patrols carried out surveillance in the most sensitive areas, leading to the localisation of a semi-hidden vehicle parked up off the beaten track area close to a rural property in Totana. A search of the vehicle revealed that inside there were several plastic bags containing farming tools used to cut fruit, prompting officers to search the farm.
There they came across plastic bags just like the ones inside the car crammed full of grapes: in fact 1,166 kilos altogether. They also arrested a 21-year old man from Murcia on charges of theft.
The extent of the grape haul made the Guardia suspect he was not acting alone however.
Further investigations resulted in the detention of two further suspects, one of them underage, and again from Murcia.
The Guardia reported the young criminals are believed to have travelled to the Bajo Guadalentin equipped with torches, dark clothing and fruit cutting implements. Once they had decided on which property to target they would park up and then to try and avoid being connected with the thefts walk to the location on foot to collect the grapes. They would shove the booty into bags, return to their vehicle and make off.
If they had collected too much to carry they would hide the bags and go back for them on a second trip.
The two adults are being dealt with by a court in Totana and the minor by the Murcia Court for Minors.
The Guardia said the investigation remains open to determine whether there is a possible connection with other grape thefts in the region.
Meanwhile, all the stolen fruit seized by the Guardia has been returned to its rightful owners.