Farmer didn’t bother to lock the door to his storehouse, because who steals sweet potatoes?

Generally speaking, there are two characteristics criminals find particularly attractive when looking for something to steal. Small items, because they’re easy to transport and conceal, are appealing targets, as are things with high liquidity, which can be easily converted into cash. That’s why jewels, precious metals, and the stacks of bills stored at banks have been coveted by crooks for generations.

But a thief, or group of thieves, in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture has decided to ditch those time-tested crime guidelines, and instead just steal a whole bunch of sweet potatoes.

On the morning of Monday, November 18, a 53-year-old farmer in the town of Oarai walked into his warehouse, located next to his sweet potato field, and noticed that sometime over the weekend someone had helped themselves to the harvested crops which had been stored inside the building. Are you imagining someone stealing a couple spuds to munch on? Think again, because the thieves made off with 15 metric tons (15,000 kilograms/33,000 pounds) of them.

It’s not like they were being stored inside a truck trailer that could easily be hitched up and driven away with. The farmer had placed his crops in containers that each hold roughly 20 kilograms of produce, and though he’d had 1,000 of them inside the warehouse at the end of the workday on Saturday, on Monday morning approximately 750 of them were missing.

The farmer says he hadn’t bothered locking the door to his warehouse when he left on Saturday, and while that may be a touching example of how safe he feels his rural community is, it was an ill-advised decision, especially since less than two moths have passed since another massive sweet potato theft in the prefecture. On September 30, a farmer in Ibaraki City reported that 2.7 metric tons of harvested sweet potatoes had been stolen from his facility, and investigators are now looking into the possibility that the two crimes were carried out by the same thieves.

Weird as the targeted items may be, the economic damage is serious, with the Oarai farmer’s lost property valued at more than 1.87 million yen (US$17,300).

It might be hard to imagine what a criminal would want with nearly 18 metric tons of sweet potatoes, but the root vegetables apparently can be stored for a very long time. The Oarai farmer had been planning to ship his produce to wholesalers in January, after which they’d make their way to individual retailers and consumers, so the thieves might be able to take their time and unload the pilfered produce little by little to unsuspecting restaurants or the operators of Japan’s fleets of sweet potato trucks that cruise the streets each autumn. Until the criminals are apprehended, upstanding restaurateurs and vendors would be wise to check the credentials of anyone offering too-sweet-to-be-true deals on sweet potatoes, as well as strip-club promoters offering cheap fish.

Source: Ibaraki Shimbun Crosseye via Yahoo! Japan News via Otakomu
Top image: Wikipedia/Talitiainen
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