Crime Wave Sweeps Rural Central California – Stealing Beehives, Tractors

In California’s Fresno County, a startling theft occurred late last month as nearly 100 beehives were reported stolen, delivering a significant blow to the local farming community. Valued at $34,000, these beehives have not only resulted in a financial loss but also raised concerns about the increasing incidents of agricultural crimes in central California, according to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office’s news release.

Instances of theft targeting cattle, heavy machinery, and various farm commodities such as copper and agricultural chemicals have been disturbingly common in the region. The isolation of these farms exacerbates their vulnerability, with the Sheriff’s office acknowledging that criminal activity is increasingly threatening rural areas – a sentiment echoed by the statement on the Fresno County Sheriff’s website that highlights crime as a “growing problem in rural areas.”

Such criminal activities are not a recent development. A report from the San Joaquin Agricultural Law Review highlighted that in 1994, Tulare County, which neighbors Fresno, suffered losses exceeding $3 million in equipment, produce, and livestock theft, posing a serious threat to an industry critical to California’s economy.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office has noted that these thefts pose unique challenges to law enforcement, prompting the establishment of agricultural crime prevention programs statewide. Notably, Merced County has even allocated a full-time district attorney’s office investigator to focus specifically on agricultural crimes.

Despite these efforts, industrial equipment thefts persist across California, significantly impacting small businesses. An Instagram post by the California Rural Crime Prevention Task Force illustrated ongoing thefts of assets like tractors, flatbed trailers, and forklifts. A recent summary from State Senator Shannon Grove’s office highlighted that Tulare County alone faced $2 million in financial losses due to stolen property in 2018. Legislation signed into law in 2019 sought to bolster protections for farmers against such devastating losses.

Authorities recommend that farmers and ranchers adopt preventative strategies to safeguard their properties. Measures include enhancing lighting, fortifying fences, and utilizing distinctive markings such as tattoos, paint, or dye on livestock for easier identification by law enforcement.

The search for the stolen beehives, distinctive with their multicolored appearance and marked with “MEB,” is ongoing. The Sheriff’s office urges anyone with information related to the theft to come forward and assist by contacting the sheriff’s office or Crime Stoppers.