Carrion says he knows of cases where gangs have stolen up to 5,000 kilos (2.3 tons) of oranges in one go. They act in broad daylight, picking the fruit under the thick cover of leafy groves, packing them in crates and loading them in trucks. Non-tree crops require a bit more stealth. "At night, they act when the moon is full. It is bright. They sneak in and steal your artichokes," Carrion said.
In Sant Climente, police say that every night they man checkpoints looking for stolen countryside goodies. The town is small, so strangers' faces stand out, and officers also know what kind of vehicles to look out for: "Usually beaten up old vans," said Joan Prunera, a Catalan regional police chief from a neighboring town who is helping out with the patrols. Minutes after he spoke, a farmer phoned in a tip: Someone was out there trying to sell a chain saw and an electrical generator, both apparently stolen.
High up on a hill amid a grove of some 1,500 cherry trees, their trunks about the thickness of a man's shin, grower Domenec Tugas and his wife Pilar patiently pick cherries. They grow six varieties, all of which probably look the same to non-cherry people. He laments the need for the police patrols that make their way up into his land in all- terrain vehicles on narrow, unpaved roads.
"People have always stolen a bit. You are used to that. But with the crisis it has gone up," said Tugas, a ruddy-cheeked man of 69 with an easy smile. He wore a straw hat against a hot, hazy sun, the air thick and muggy. He said that just last weekend he called in police to scare off two young guys on a motorcycle who were helping themselves to his fruit.
But there is one intruder he cannot fight, at least not on his own.
"Wild boars. They weigh up to 90 kilos (200 pounds). They come in and ram into the trees to knock them down," Tugas said. "It is for their little ones to eat. They love cherries."