American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® recently reported on a rash of nut thefts, in which truckloads of nuts worth as much as $500,000 have been stolen.
In December, the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) and American Pistachio Growers organized a summit to address the thefts. Everyone from growers, processors, shippers, brokers, law enforcement officials, and buyers attended.
Western Agricultural Processors Association President and CEO Roger Isom says a list of action items was created to try and combat the problem. One of the items on the list is to try to change legislation to make sure those who commit the crimes do prison time.
“We’re already starting to work on that with the sheriff’s department,” Isom says.
In addition, the plan is to adopt a set of standard operating procedures for facilities to put in place. These would require trucking companies to provide the driver’s name, license number and even a picture if possible, so that when the driver shows up, he can be identified. The driver will then be photographed and finger printed.
“We’re going to take pictures of the trucks, we’re going to take pictures of the license plates, pictures of the VIN number to make sure it hasn’t been changed – doing all this extra documentation to try to prevent this,” Isom says.
They’re also working with insurance companies to develop a tree nut-specific program to protect victims of this kind of theft, as well as putting out bulletins to WAPA members when a theft does occur.
Isom adds that the thieves most often strike on weekends or around holidays, when people take time off or let their guards down. The week of Christmas, a load of almonds was stolen, and a number of other nut thefts happened around Thanksgiving, according to Isom.
“We found out that the majority of cargo thefts across the board, not just in tree nuts, happen on a Thursday or Friday,” he adds. “Most people take the weekends off, and so what happens is you don’t find out until Monday that your load didn’t get there.”
A comprehensive list of practices is being developed, but in the meantime, WAPA recommends taking the following precautions:
- All pick-up appointments must be made at least 24 hours in advance and require:
- Pick-up number
- Driver’s name and driver’s license number
- Trucking company name
- Verify paperwork upon arrival
- Take photographs of driver, truck, and trailer
- Take photographs of license plates and VIN
- Take thumbprint of driver
- Post warnings at truck entrance
- Install high-definition surveillance cameras
- Utilize GPS tracking devices with cargo shipments