There’s a new tool that could lead to a significant decrease in crime rates, starting in the Tulare County. The tool is called SmartWater, and Detective John Nicholson of the Tulare County Ag Crimes Unit said that the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department has begun using it to track stolen property.
Nicholson said that SmartWater comes from a company based out of England that has been around for about 20 years and decided to open up a branch in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Word came about the tool’s dramatic effect on crime rates, with double-digit reductions in the neighborhoods where it was used.
“The sheriff was excited about it and thought it could be something that would protect the local farmers and ranchers of Tulare County,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson said growers could get their own vial so that they can mark equipment with a mark that is made visible by a particular light only the sheriff’s department has access to, so the criminals do not know it is there.
Nicholson explained it as working similar to identifying people by DNA, as a sample is taken back to the lab so it can come back registered to the property owner.
“It’s a mineral-based tool that can not only stand up to the elements, but even if bleach is poured onto it, the SmartWater will remain there as evidence against criminals in court,” Nicholson said.
“If someone is caught with a tool, jewelry, firearm or anything—and even if the serial number is ground off—if the item was marked with SmartWater, it comes back registered to a victim who has had the item stolen. Then we can identify that item in court,” he said.
This should ultimately lead to an arrest or conviction due to possession of stolen property.
The SmartWater program is available for free at the Tulare County Sheriff’s department.
The Commission has received reports that avocado theft is on the rise in the southern region of California.
In one incident, nearly 5,000 pounds of avocados were stolen from Lilac Hills Ranch between February 22–24, 2014. Officials noted that it appears a fence was cut “a few days prior” to the theft and the stolen avocados were handpicked during a very short time frame.
If anyone has any information concerning the felony theft, please contact Detective Dave Brannan at 858.565.5200.
It is critical that California avocado growers take steps to prevent theft in their avocado groves. Here are a few tips:
Assess the security of your grove — examine fences and gates closely.
Post “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs to advise potential thieves you will prosecute trespassers.
Carefully screen job applicants and check their references.
Encourage farm workers to watch for unusual behavior by fellow employees and to report unescorted visitors to their employers.
Utilize surveillance equipment, motion detectors, audible alarms, dogs or geese to deter theft.
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:
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.
Ag Crime Assistance Requested: The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office Rural Crime Unit is looking for any information on a recovered, stolen trailer. The only markings on it appear to be hand stamped.
Description: PJ Trailer, 2 Axle, had a “Trailer Barn” sticker on it, was stolen at least 3 years ago.
If you have any information on who it might belong to, please contact Officer Mark Ernstrom at: (805) 431-5529.