Possible Cuts to Ag Crime Funds

February 3, 2009 10:58:44 PM PST
Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing to eliminate millions of dollars in Ag crime money meant to go to the Central Valley.In recent months, the war on Ag crime has shifted. Kings County Ag Detectives used to handle a new copper wire or metal theft case each and every day. But when metal prices plunged late last year, the criminals changed their tactics, going after high priced items.

Det. Darin Pearson from the Kings Co. Sheriff's Office said, "But what the suspects are doing now they're still hitting the farmers only now they're breaking into the shops they're stealing welders power tools vehicles quads.

Fuel is still being stolen, as well. This farmer right off Highway 198 says he's been victim too many times to Ag criminals. Recently, thieves took thousands of gallons of gasoline from these tanks.

John Toledo said, "The previous couple years it's been pretty rough."

Detective Pearson says Ag crimes are still at an all-time high which is why he's upset the governor's latest budget proposal, calls for the elimination of the California Rural Crimes Prevention Task Force. Valley task force costs three million dollars and provides Ag crime detectives to sheriff's offices in Kings, Tulare, Kern, Merced, Fresno and Madera Counties.

Sheriff's officials say the $250,000 that funds three Ag detectives here in Kings County is vital to fighting Ag crime

Sheriff Chris Jordan said, "Three million dollars in terms of the multibillion dollar budget the state has is peanuts so its not going to balance the budget but the impact that it has on our rural community is huge."

Detective Pearson says the task force allows agencies all over the Central Valley to share information which allows victims to get their stolen equipment back quickly. It also speeds up the prosecution of criminals.

"Ag crime appears now to be here to stay and it's going to be a serious problem for a long time to come," said Pearson.

Sheriff's officials are hopeful legislators will put the task force back in the budget before it gets approved.

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