Police have urged tobacco farmers to be wary of organised criminals who take advantage of the increase in human and vehicular traffic at the auction floors during this selling season to commit offences in addition to duping them.
The warning follows a marginal increase in armed robbery, fraud cases involving card cloning, mobile cash transactions, forgery, theft from cars and pickpocketing cases compared to those recorded during the 2018 tobacco marketing season.
In a statement, national police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said officers had been deployed at auction floors and all trading places to ensure that law and order is maintained.
He urged the publict, especially farmers and transporters, to be alert as the 2019 tobacco selling season gets underway.
"During the 2018 tobacco marketing season, several cases which include armed robbery, plain robbery, theft from cars, fraud cases involving card cloning, mobile cash transactions, feja feja/chadonha, forgery and uttering, pickpocketing were recorded," he said.
"Farmers should take note that there are organised criminals who take advantage of the increase in human and vehicular traffic to commit offences by duping unsuspecting traders and tobacco farmers. Some farmers have also fallen victim when they entertained sex workers, who end up fleecing them of their moneys and in some instances, work in cahoots with other criminals and end up attacking them."
Asst Comm Nyathi urged farmers not entertain strangers and to safeguard their produce, as well as proceeds from sales.
"They should hire reputable transporters and also avoid travelling at night," he said. "Members of the public should report any suspicious characters to the police for the law to take its course."
Over the past few years, farmers have lost tobacco worth hundreds of thousands of dollars after being robbed of their crop in transit to the auction floors.
During this period, police records show that organised criminals hijack ed truckloads of tobacco bales along the way or within the auction floor premises.
Others also waylay the farmers to steal their hard earned cash, goods and valuables.
In April last year, a tobacco farmer lost US$2 800 to criminals after they drugged him during a beer-drinking binge at the Tobacco Sales Floor (TSF) in Harare.
The thieves bought household goods worth US$2 600 with the stolen money.