Crime losses top $10 million in 9-county ACTION area
Crime-related losses on farms in the nine California counties that are part of the Agricultural Crime Technology Information and Operations Network totaled $10.7 million in 2004. This includes everything from tractors to all-terrain vehicles to agricultural chemicals to tools.
The counties included in the total are Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and San Luis Obispo.
Miscellaneous items accounted for the highest number of agricultural thefts at $4.3 million. These items include tools, compressors, wind machines and pumps. Scrap metal is also included in this category which is a favorite among thieves. Criminals routinely steal irrigation pipes which are cut down and sold for scrap metal.
Recently in the Tracy area, irrigation pipe valued at $30,000 was reported stolen from a farmer's field. There is high demand for this type of scrap metal overseas, so it is a popular item with thieves, said Mary Beth Hash, ACTION regional coordinator. In order to make it more difficult for would-be thieves, Hash suggests that farmers avoid storing metal pipe on trailers near fields that are to be irrigated.
Included in the figure of total agricultural losses is an estimated $1.9 million worth of vehicles that were stolen from California farms and ranches, followed by $1.1 million worth of tractors. Another category that is included in the overall total of farm thefts is embezzlement. Last year, losses to farmers due to embezzlement reached almost $790,000. The majority of that loss was due to embezzlement that occurred in Tulare County to the tune of $703,000.
Instances of vandalism cost farmers $565,000 and farm equipment losses of items such as trailers, large generators and all-terrain vehicles, reached $535,000.
Agricultural commodities, anything from walnut burls and alfalfa hay to pumpkins and peaches, reached a loss of $533,000. The value of stolen livestock was $398,000 and stolen chemical losses totaled $336,000.
To prevent theft from happening in California's heartland, local law enforcement and the ACTION Project recommend that farmers do not leave anything of value close to the roadway where thieves have easy access. In some cases this even includes the crop itself, whether it is hay bales, newborn calves or pumpkins, Hash said.
Fresno and Tulare counties recorded the highest number of diesel fuel thefts and San Joaquin County recorded the highest number of gasoline thefts. From January to September, thieves took nearly 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and more than 10,000 gallons of gasoline.
Many thefts are directly related to what is happening in the economy. As the price for fuel increases, so does the number of fuel thefts, said Hash.
During 2004, law enforcement recovered $3.4 million worth of property that had been stolen from agricultural farms and ranches.
Crime Costs Money
Summary of 2004 agricultural crime values in 9-county area as reported by ACTION:
Farm Equipment $535,000
Miscellaneous $4.3 million
Tractors $1.1 million
Vehicles $1.9 million
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.