California bill sets in motion protections from tree nut cargo thefts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 7/8/2016

The growing problem of cargo theft in California is getting attention at the statehouse.

The Senate Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that is intended to combat truck theft with an emphasis on high-value agricultural loads. The bill, AB2805, awaits further consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would advance to the governor’s desk. Assembly lawmakers already approved it with unanimous consent.

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 an 18-county 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.

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen is opposed to the bill. The group says the Highway Patrol has carried out cargo theft investigations for more than two decades and they are unaware of any allegations that the agency has not performed their duties adequately.

Advocates say there have been more than 30 incidents of tree nut theft in recent 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 previously stated.

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