Madera County DA sets up Ag and Water Crimes Task Force

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The Madera County District Attorney's Office has formed its own Agricultural and Wasssssssster Crime Task Force. (KFSN)

The Madera County District Attorney's Office has formed its own Agricultural and Water Crime Task Force. That task force is now on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week when ag and water crimes are reported. The goal is to focus more on prosecuting those cases and also preventing them.

Growers across the Valley have a hard enough time dealing with the drought, but metal thieves make their jobs even more difficult.

"Just multiple times, they steal your wire, your copper wire, you've got to re-put it in, thousands of dollars spent," said Fred Fagundes, Madera County Grower.

Other targets include everything from grapevine stakes to brass valves to large farm equipment. In fact, District Attorney David Linn says ag-related crimes make up at least 20 percent of the cases his office handles. That's why he's now formed an Agricultural and Water Crime Task Force -- just months after taking office.

"You do an ag crime, you're gonna do time," said Linn.

The task force is made up of two deputy district attorneys and a district attorney investigator. They will be on call around the clock to respond to scenes, speak with victims, and prosecute these types of cases. They also plan to help educate people about how to protect their properties.

"Things like razor wire, more substantial buildings for their pump enclosures, and fencing their property so that it's not quickly accessible from the highway," said Linn.

Linn says he also wants to warn growers here about a crime he's seen in the South Valley, where people are drilling wells at a diagonal, so it appears they're pumping water from their own property, but are actually stealing it from their neighbors. "A farm without water isn't worth anything, so we want to make sure those drillers that are up to no good know that Madera County is not a good county for them to come into."

The new ag and water task force will work with other law enforcement agencies throughout Madera County. Linn says the 24-7 phone number will be added to the county's website.

That phone number is (559) 517-6453.

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