‘Most people are not dishonest’ Hadley farmers talk farm stand thefts; police arrest two

The Daily Hampshire Gazette. July 26, 2014. By Gena Mangiaratti.

HADLEY — Though thieves made off with the cash box Friday at his unstaffed farm stand at the corner of Comins and Shattuck roads, by Saturday morning, longtime farmer Joseph Czajkowski was more focused more on the fact that his neighbors were watching out for him.

“It’s nice that the neighbors look out like that — good neighbors make good neighborhoods,” Czajkowski said in an interview with the Gazette at his 86 Comins Road farm where he works 400 acres, including 162 that are certified organic.

He learned of the theft of $57 in a lockbox when a neighbor telephoned him to alert him that his stand had just been robbed, and within an hour, Hadley Police had arrested two men in connection with the theft. The incident was the second theft reported from a Hadley farm stand in two days, though no arrests have been made in connection with the first one, which was reported Thursday.

Police arrested Ras Fire, whose former name was Daniel Bartusewich, 31, of Aloha Drive and Zane Linehan, 20, of Easthampton, after they stopped their vehicle on Route 116 South at 7:47 p.m. Friday. They were arrested on charges of breaking/injury to a depository and larceny under $200 in connection with the theft at Czajkowski’s farm stand.

Police Sgt. Michael Mason noted that many farm stands in town are unstaffed because for the farmers, it can be counterproductive to sit at their stands all day or pay someone to staff it. To avoid theft, he advises farm stand owners to not only lock their cash boxes, but secure them to their stands.

“It’s almost like having a small safe in your house. People can take the whole thing,” Mason said. “If it’s bolted to a wall, they’re going to have to take the wall to get it, or tear it off.”

Czajkowski said his cash box is bolted and welded to his stand, but the thieves forced the lid open. The stand has had a security camera on site for about four years, since another theft occurred.

“Most of the time it’s fine, most people are not dishonest,” said Czajkowski, who noted that his family has been in Hadley for about 100 years.

He said he thanks the police for what he termed “their wonderful, attentive service.”

Another Hadley farmer reported a similar incident Thursday shortly after 3 p.m. at an unstaffed farm stand at 22 East Street, across from the Hadley Police Station.

Farmer Dennis Pipczynski happened to be driving by his farm stand in a dump truck when he saw someone taking the can with money in it, so he jotted down the license plate number and took off after the car. While he chased it, the person in the car tossed out the can. When Pipczynski retrieved the can from the side of the road it was empty, he said in an interview at the farm stand Saturday. He believes the can contained about $10 to $15.

“I came around the corner, I saw them pull it off — it was just bad timing on their part,” said Pipczynski, who farms 16 acres off East Street. He said he’s been selling vegetables from his farm for about 30 years.

According to the police department’s Facebook page, the vehicle description in this instance matched the vehicle involved in Friday’s incident.

Mason said that police are currently investigating whether the two incidents are linked.

Fire and Linehan will be arraigned Monday morning in Eastern Hampshire District Court.