(NaturalNews) California's Central Valley, which has long been considered the nation's breadbasket, has also become a new hotbed for property crime. Except instead of stealing things like cars and high-dollar electronics, thieves there are stealing fruits and vegetables from farms, as well as farm equipment, and even the copper used to power water systems.
Dismal economic conditions, fewer rural law enforcement officers, and the continued influx of illegal aliens, have all contributed to a sharp increase in farm theft. Vineyards are having their grapes stolen, avocado groves are having their avocados stolen, beekeepers are having their bees stolen, and farms of all types are having their tractors, tools, truck batteries, and other equipment stolen as well.
"All of our agriculture crimes are up," said Sergeant Walt Reed from the Kern County Sheriff's office, to the New York Times (NYT). "Everything this year is going well. And if it's doing well here, there's somebody looking to steal it."
Unlike banks, businesses, and even residential homes, most farms have little or no security, as they sit primarily in rural areas with no security. Most do not even have fences surrounding their crop fields and orchards, which means that the risk of being caught stealing is low, especially when under the cloak of darkness.
But more than just grabbing a few peaches or a sack of strawberries, farm thieves are becoming highly sophisticated. A bee farm in Madera County, Calif., for instance, recently had $100,000 worth of bees stolen from its property -- yes, bees.
Sheriff John Anderson told the NYT in a recent report that the thieves knew what they were doing, and were well-prepared in their heist, having likely "smoked" the bees, sedated them, and then hijacked them.
Still other farmers are having to deal with concerted copper thefts, which involve thieves snipping the wiring that runs between outdoor wells and power boxes, and reselling the metal for thousands of dollars.