Post signs on rural lands to comply with new trespass law


Issue Date: February 18, 2004
Christine Souza

Among the many chores that a farmer finds crowded onto his to-do list-feed cattle, repair broken fences, plant crops, apply fertilizer, balance books, meet with the banker-one that should be placed at the top of the list, especially during California's Rural Crime Prevention Month, is to post "no trespassing" signs.

"Rural crime begins with trespassing. It doesn't matter whether it is theft, meth labs or vandalism, a person has to enter the property illegally to commit these crimes," said Sarah Mora, California Farm Bureau Federation program director for rural crime prevention.

Effective this year is a new state law that increases the penalty for people who trespass on lands where livestock is raised for human consumption. Senate Bill 993, by Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, addresses the potential adverse public health and economic consequences of agricultural bioterrorist attacks. Across the nation, there is increased concern regarding those who enter lands and facilities where animals are being raised for human consumption, with the intent to interfere with lawful business practices and/or damage property.

S.B. 993, which passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support, expanded the trespassing law, made it a misdemeanor to trespass on livestock lands and and attache an increased fine of up to $1,000. The 2003 trespassing law allowed law enforcement to cite trespassers with a $10 fine and ask them to leave the property.

"Any time you own private property, especially large pieces of land that is farm property, you should post 'no trespass' signs correctly according to the law to keep violators off of your property," said Sgt. Lou Fatur of the Sacramento County Sheriff's ýepartment. "This (new law) may put some more teeth in the trespassing laws, but you still have to protect your property with correct signage, correct fencing and good gates so that people cannot just drive onto your property. Plus, it is good to post these signs for liability reasons."

For farmers and ranchers to benefit from the new law, they must ensure that the "no trespassing signs" are displayed properly around the ranch. Signs must be displayed at intervals of not less than three signs per mile along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering the land.

One livestock producer who is a strong supporter of the new law is Elk Grove rancher John Greber Jr., a Young Farmers and Ranchers State Committee member, who raises cattle and hogs, as well as trains horses.

"There have been a lot of thefts in the area, from stolen equipment to vehicles. The growing population of the nearby urban area means there is going to be an increased crime rate that impacts rural communities," Greber said. "As farmers and ranchers, we need to take the most action that we can to prevent losses to our livelihoods. One simple way to combat rural crime is to tack up these 'no trespass' signs."

"No trespassing" signs are available in English and Spanish through CFBF. To purchase signs, contact Imelda Pickering at (800) 698-FARM.

Growers like Greber must do everything they can to protect their properties, Mora said. In conjunction with Rural Crime Prevention Month, she suggests that farmers and ranchers be aware of Allied Insurance's Special Investigations Unit that works with law enforcement throughout the state to return stolen property to its rightful owners.

Allied Insurance's Special Investigations Unit works diligently to assist Allied Insurance customers recover their stolen property. Efforts include a 'hot sheet' which includes a description of items stolen from farms and ranches," Mora said. "The hot sheet is distributed to law enforcement to assist in the recovery of the property."

John Kempf, who manages Allied's Special Investigations Unit, mentions that the insurance company offers a reward of up to $1,000 for the return of stolen property or for information that leads to the return of stolen property.

"We need to make sure that all Farm Bureau members realize that there is a conduit to getting their stolen property returned and one part of it is this reward program. The other is the Allied Insurance hot sheet, if they happened to be an Allied insured," Kempf said. "Ag crime is a major problem. One tractor theft that can be recovered is huge."

The California Farm Bureau Federation is part of the California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force, which targets ways to combat theft and vandalism in the state's rural areas. The task force promotes the use of owner-applied numbers on equipment and tools to aid in recovery of stolen property. A tool kit available from county Farm Bureaus allows farmers to stamp chemical containers and other property with a personal identifying number.

For more information about rural crime prevention or Allied's reward program, go to the CFBF Web site at www.cfbf.com/programs/agcrime. For assistance in recovering stolen equipment, contact Kempf at (916) 920-7732.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.