California Assembly endorses taking action on rash of tree nut thefts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/10/2016

A bill making its way through the California Legislature addresses the state’s growing problem of cargo theft.

The Assembly voted unanimously to advance a bill that is intended to combat truck theft with an emphasis on high-value agricultural loads. The bill, AB2805, now moves to the Senate.

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, says there were 158 cargo theft incidents one year ago. The thefts resulted in more than $18.7 million in financial losses – more than any other state.

“These crimes impact all sectors of California’s economy, including agriculture, retail, and technology,” Olsen wrote in a bill analysis.

Olsen adds that local law enforcement agencies do not have jurisdictional authority, investigative facilities, or data systems to appropriately address the state’s cargo theft problem.

In an effort to address the issue, Olsen’s bill would create a task force to develop and adopt standards for detecting and tracking theft.

The task force would also be responsible for setting up a program to focus on tree nut industry thefts.

Advocates say there have been more than 30 incidents of tree nut theft in the past six months. During that time, the losses of almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios exceed $10 million.

Representatives of the nut industry say thieves pose as legitimate truck drivers, create fraudulent paperwork and pick up cargo, and even hack into truck routing systems to divert unsuspecting haulers to locations where thieves take the contents.

Efforts are underway to combat the problem but supporters say they need a proactive statewide task force on cargo theft to help address the issue.

“AB2805 is a proactive solution that will aid law enforcement, protect businesses, and deter future theft and organized crime,” Olsen stated.

The bill’s next stop is the Senate Public Safety Committee. AB2805 is not scheduled for a hearing this week.

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