Stolen Property Easily Detected With SmartWater

From SmartWater to Smart Farms

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

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.

Detective John Nicholson

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.

Ag Theft Crime Ring Taken Down In the Valley

Source: Jessica Peres; ABC 30

Investigators say they’ve taken down a major crime ring. The suspect stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in agriculture equipment.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office notified investigators that they found more than 1,000 pieces of ag equipment stolen out of Tulare County.

Lawn trimmers, sidewalk edgers and tree pruners are just a fraction of the pieces of equipment found in Southern California that were stolen out of Tulare County.

The equipment was taken from Fruit Growers Supply in Porterville, and Lawrence Tractor out of Tipton, over the last two weeks. Then on Friday, investigators got a break in the case.

Tulare County Acting Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said, “The Kern County Sheriff’s Department was conducting an investigation separate from the commercial burglaries in the Hawthorne area. While they were there they recognized some property that may or may not be related to our burglary.”

What they ultimately uncovered was a highly proficient crime ring, where suspects would steal hundreds of pieces of ag equipment and sell them on the street for one-third of the retail price.

Boudreaux added, “The particular people were not only selling it on the black market but they would send it to people to sell at swap meets.”

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office arrested Rafael Gomez and Israel Garcia, both from Hawthorne, for the thefts.

Stihl branch manager in Visalia, Larry Blamer, says most of the tools sell for upwards of $300.00.

Blamer told Action News, “Stihl brand is not sold to any of the big box stores just independently owned family businesses throughout America and it’s those independent owners that take that hit.”

Stihl has a highly sophisticated serial number tracking system, that helped investigators confirm most of the 1,100 pieces of stolen equipment out of Tulare County. The tools were worth more than $300,000.00.

Blamer says most times when store owners call them about a theft, they’re lucky if they see 1-percent of it returned to them.

Blamer explained, ” I’ve been in business for 35 years and this is the biggest single find of power equipment I’ve seen.”

The sheriff’s office is still investigating the case and says there are more suspects they’re looking for.

They say the crime ring is wide spread. Some of the ag equipment was stolen from as far away as Hanford, San Luis Obispo and even Ohio.