California nut theft legislation – designed to help thwart the crooks who have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of tree nuts this year – recently passed out of the Assembly Agriculture Committee on a unanimous vote.
The legislation, AB 2805, authored by Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank), now heads to the Assembly Public Safety Committee. It calls for forming a statewide Agricultural Cargo Theft Task Force geared to bringing law enforcement together on a statewide basis and create a mechanism to receive funding to support activities to help fight agricultural cargo theft, such as the more than 30 loads of tree nuts that have been stolen in the past six months.
With the support of local law enforcement throughout the state, the Western Agricultural Processors Association hopes AB 2805 is just a first step in the fight against tree nut theft. Ultimately, the association will seek additional legislation to increase jail time to a significant level.
California has seen an increase in incidents of cargo theft in recent years. According to CargoNet, a cargo theft prevention and recovery firm, California experienced 158 cargo theft incidents in 2015, costing businesses nearly $19 million – more than any other state. These massive losses are spread across all sectors of our economy including agriculture, retail, and technology.
“Every coordinated and successful attempt at cargo theft is a direct hit on not only the pockets of hardworking farmers and farmworkers in California – but on our state’s economy,” said Olsen. “AB 2805 is proactive solution that will aid law enforcement, protect businesses, and deter future theft and organized crime.”
Organized crime has been responsible for many of these thefts, and the scope of crime suggests international actors are at play. However, local law enforcement agencies have been unable to adequately respond due to a lack of resources and the inability to coordinate statewide.
“Over the past six months, the tree nut industry has experienced the loss of more than 30 loads of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews in California resulting in unrecoverable losses of over $10 million,” said Roger Isom, WAPA president. “Located in primarily rural counties, the tree nut industry sees AB 2805 as a critical tool in initiating a statewide effort to combat this rapidly growing and very costly crime.”
To enhance coordination efforts between local law enforcement agencies, Olsen said the cargo theft prevention task force will work to develop crime prevention programs, problem solving, and crime control techniques, and may develop a uniform procedure for all participating counties to collect data on cargo theft crimes. The program will also offer solutions for reporting cargo theft crimes that will enable the successful apprehension of criminal suspects for prosecution.
AB 2805 passed the Assembly Committee on Agriculture on a 10 to 0 vote, and will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations in the coming weeks.