Produce pilferers take items meant for AJ, less fortunate - FOX Carolina 21

Produce pilferers take items meant for AJ, less fortunate

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Thieves have been sneaking in at night and taking produce and plants from this fruit and vegetable garden in Apache Junction. (Source: CBS 5 News) Thieves have been sneaking in at night and taking produce and plants from this fruit and vegetable garden in Apache Junction. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Only one row of plants was left untouched in this planter box. (Source: CBS 5 News) Only one row of plants was left untouched in this planter box. (Source: CBS 5 News)
The thieves have uprooted apple and pear trees from the ground. (Source: CBS 5 News) The thieves have uprooted apple and pear trees from the ground. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Gardeners gave up on this box after replanting it three times, only to have it cleaned out at night. (Source: CBS 5 News) Gardeners gave up on this box after replanting it three times, only to have it cleaned out at night. (Source: CBS 5 News)
"I'm standing over an area right now where alyssum used to be," said Gustavo McGrew. (Source: CBS 5 News) "I'm standing over an area right now where alyssum used to be," said Gustavo McGrew. (Source: CBS 5 News)
APACHE JUNCTION, AZ (CBS5) -

A fruit and vegetable garden in Apache Junction built to benefit the community and the less fortunate is getting ripped off.

Someone is going in during the dead of night and ripping out produce grown near Superstition Boulevard and Plaza Drive.

In the daytime, the property has everything wanted in a community park: open air, a leisurely walking path, planter boxes filled with green and lush vegetation.

But at night, the area is pitch black, providing the perfect cover for someone to sneak in and help themselves to the produce.

"So, over here I've lost a lot of jalapeno, habanero," said Gustavo McGrew of Mountain Health and Wellness, which owns the property and gardens.

"This was chalk full of chili plants," he said as he pointed to a planter box with only one row of plants remaining.

McGrew also pointed to a a bare spot where an apple tree had been uprooted. It was between two other apple trees, but "this was the special one," he said.

Near the beginning of March, all of the beds were pretty full, McGrew said, but then he started to notice plants were being stolen.

"A little here, a little there, over the course of a few weeks," McGrew said.

One box is now bare.

"We actually planted this one three different times and then we kind of gave up on planting it anymore," he said.

A the end of the month, the thief or thieves pulled an apple and a pear tree right out of the ground, grabbed several other items and took off.

"I'm standing over an area right now where alyssum used to be," McGrew said standing over a box with a different flower. "They took the alyssum plants out of here."

Apache Junction police took a report claiming about $500 worth of trees and plants stolen.

"What's unfortunate is the garden is there to help feed people in need," said Constance Halonen, of the Apache Junction Police Department.

However, it's not as though it's part of a crime wave.

"We haven't seen an increase in any property thefts or an increase in similar type reports," Halonen said.

The garden is a welcoming place for ladybugs and birds keep watch from their perch in a nearby saguaro cactus, but they're not the only critters watching now.

"The silver lining in this for us is that we've had our community step up and we've had them say we want to come out and help and make this right," McGrew said.

A local hardware and plant store offered to help out and McGrew said they're expecting a huge turnout for a farmers' market and vendor fair Saturday morning.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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