Theft Is on the Rise — Protect Your Groves

  • May 01, 2015

According to a recent report from Ventura Sheriff Detective Chip Chadman, theft of avocados, fertilizer and pesticides is on the rise. Two individuals were arrested for avocado theft in an unincorporated area of Santa Paula and another set of avocado thieves was arrested for theft in the unincorporated area of Moorpark. Two reports of fertilizer and pesticides were recently reported in the unincorporated area of Oxnard and Santa Barbara County has also reported a rise in theft of these agriculture supplies.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s office also has reported a number of agricultural thefts recently. A Fallbrook business reported the theft of four 20 gpm Dosatron fertilizer injectors and a cell phone, while thieves attempted to break into a pesticide shed of another Fallbrook business. In Valley Center, 150 gallons of fuel were stolen from a grove. 

Detective Chapman notes that ranches and farms are attractive targets for thieves because of the expensive equipment, materials and supplies on the premises and because these locations are often in remote areas where criminal activity is not easily seen.

For these reasons, Detective Chapman recommends the following actions be taken in order to safeguard avocado groves, property, equipment and materials.

Supplies

  • Rather than stockpiling supplies, order just what you need in order to avoid having to store supplies on the premises.
  • If you do need to stockpile supplies, store them in a location not easily visible from the road, but easily visible from a house or workstation.
  • Store supplies in a secure location other than where you receive the delivery of supplies in case suspects are watching.
  • Maintain a complete listing of all tools, including serial numbers and model numbers.

Equipment

  • Keep close track of equipment and ensure it is marked with an Owner Applied Number (OAN). If you need assistance obtaining an OAN contact your local law enforcement agency.
  • Lock all equipment and do not hide keys in the vehicle.
  • Remove all tools and equipment from vehicles. Vehicular toolboxes should be locked and secured to the vehicle.
  • Do not leave equipment in the fields overnight. If you must, park the equipment where it is not easily seen from the road and chain machinery/equipment together.
  • Place lockable cases over batteries and lockable caps on fuel openings.
  • Ensure areas around fuel tanks are well lit and that the fuel tank is not easily seen from the road.
  • Locate fuel tank control switches in a house or locked building.
  • Maintain a complete listing of all machinery/equipment, including serial numbers and model numbers.

Buildings

  • Secure doors by placing hinges on the interior of the door, reinforcing interior doorjambs and use heavy-duty strike plates and long screws.
  • Use heavy padlocks on doors.
  • Use a commercial side-block or insert a pin through the bottom sash to secure windows.
  • Metal bars and heavy screens provide extra security on high-risk windows. 

Property

  • Post “No Trespassing” signs on the borders of your property, as well as signs warning of video surveillance, alarm systems, security guards or dogs.
  • Check fences to ensure they are secure.
  • Lock all gates with heavy-duty chains and padlocks when not in use.
  • Use posts, poles, drainage ditches or large boulders to block vehicle access to open areas on your property.

If a theft does occur in your grove it is important you contact law enforcement (911) immediately and leave the scene intact so officials can gather evidence. Be certain to take down license plate numbers and the make, color and other significant details of the suspected vehicle. Note the direction in which the vehicle travels. Take note of the suspect’s age, height, weight, facial hair, clothing and shoe type.

Theft-related information can be submitted to the hotline at AvoTheft@avocado.org, or by calling (949) 754-0733. It is important to provide the following information when reporting a theft: 

  • your name
  • contact phone number
  • address or intersection where theft occurred
  • date of theft
  • time of theft
  • pounds of fruit stolen
  • other items taken or vandalized

The California Avocado Commission's Anti-Theft Reward Program provides a monetary reward, of up to $5,000, to individuals who provide information leading to the arrest/conviction of another for unlawful possession of California avocados, or for information leading to the return of stolen fruit, or for information leading to the prevention of an avocado theft in progress. For more information regarding the Commission's reward program, click here.

If you need advice concerning theft prevention, assistance with OANs or have any questions, contact your local law enforcement agency.

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