ESCALON (CBS13) - A brazen crime wave is threatening to push farmers out of business. The latest in a series of walnut thefts is the largest yet, with the farmer nearly taking a half-a-million dollar hit.
Thieves took off with more than 140,000 pounds of walnuts from Gold River Orchard, and the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation says these crimes have been escalating.
"It's brazen; it's aggressive," said Bruce Blodgett, San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation.
It's also costly. About $400,000 worth of walnuts were stolen from the Escalon farm. It's one of the largest walnut thefts in recent memory.
"They're going into people's homes, and they are going into their operations, and they are stealing their livelihood," said Blodgett.
How exactly did they get away with it?
Deputies say the thieves snuck onto the property afterhours before taking off with three full large containers of the nut.
"Walnuts are a valuable commodity right now, a little bit in short supply. So, when you have that situation, prices are high; it becomes a target," said Blodgett.
Blodgett says they've seen crop thefts happen more and more in recent years. The impact it has on the farmers can be devastating.
"They spent the entire year taking care of their trees, getting this crop to production, getting through the harvest...finally get it ready to go to a point where they are going to be able to sell it, and it's gone," said Blodgett.
Blodgett says the criminals are getting more daring, leaving farmers frustrated because no one's getting caught.
"Bottom line, we are going to have to do more in terms of, one, capturing these folks and -- two -- more importantly, prosecuting them too," said Blodgett.
The sheriff's department is still looking for the thieves, but have no suspects at this time.
The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation plans to talk to members of the legislature about what can be done to increase penalties and fines for these types of crimes.
for more features.