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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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    New Signage Deters Thieves at Stan State’s Orchards

    The+newly+installed+signs+for+the+California+Pathway+deter+citrus+theft.+%28Signal+Photo%2FKristin+Platts%29
    Kristin Platts

    The newly installed signs for the California Pathway deter citrus theft. (Signal Photo/Kristin Platts)

    Frequent users of the California Pathway trail leading from Monte Vista Avenue into a citrus orchard on the Stanislaus State campus might have noticed a series of new signs recently. The signs, warning potential thieves to leave the nearby citrus trees alone, are a result of a string of increasing orchard thefts last semester.
    Stan State professor, agriculture program director and Rolland Starn endowed chair, Dr. Oluwarotimi Odeh, said that he started noticing the theft occurring about four years ago. As annual production rises in the orchards and the trees mature, the theft also increases.
    “It’s difficult to really give a number because we don’t see them taking it, but for sure, we know, every year, it’s probably well into the hundreds or thousands of dollars,” Odeh said.
    He explained that would-be thieves could easily steal 40 to 50 pounds of citrus between one or two of those trees.
    “If someone goes there two or three times with bags, they can very quickly cause a lot of havoc,” he said.
    A newer orchard with potential for theft will also be coming into production this year, consisting of stone fruit varieties and almonds. Odeh said the agriculture department looked into putting up a very basic fence around the entirety of the orchard, but the cost would have been over $100,000. As a cheaper alternative, the department posted new signs in early December hoping to deter thieves, which still set them back hundreds of dollars.
    Besides being a monetary loss to the department, the theft affects the educational aspects of the orchard and puts a big dent in the department’s ultimate goals with the harvested fruit. Odeh explained that the students involved in overseeing orchard production learn every aspect of it, from nurturing the trees to the sale of fruit after harvest.
    “We teach every part of the sale, how you determine the price, who you sell it to and things like that,” he said “We hope that we can educate folks not to take fruit and understand that it belongs to someone. It’s stealing.”
    Thieves are also taking from the community by stealing fruit. A portion of each year’s harvest is distributed in a number of ways throughout the Turlock community, including through donations to United Samaritans and the Stan State food pantry, or is sold to the Turlock Unified School District for use in their food service program.
    If that’s not enough of a deterrent, stealing from the citrus orchard can potentially lead to felony charges, as well.
    “The theft of citrus would be dealt with in the same manner as any other theft,” said Stan State police captain Cheri Silveira. 
    “The stolen amount is calculated. If it’s under $950, then it’s a misdemeanor and they could be issued a citation with a court date for the theft charge. If the amount was over $950 (that’s a lot of oranges or lemons), it would be considered a felony and the person would be arrested and booked into jail.”
    The new signage warns the unknowledgeable about the consequences and legality of stealing from the orchard. Silveira hopes this will be enough to encourage thieves to stay away and leave it for its intended purpose—to educate Stan State students.
    “These aren’t random fruit trees. They are there for an educational purpose, not for the public to take for personal use,” Silveira said.
    While serious charges are not always the result of stealing from the orchard, students who risk taking the fruit may face academic discipline.
    “If someone illegally takes the fruit, they will also likely be evicted off campus for seven days pursuant to 626.6 penal code,” Silveira said. “If the person returns within those seven days, after being evicted, they can be arrested for 626.6pc and taken to the county jail.”
    So far, the signs seem to be working, according to Martin Hildebrandt, sustainable agriculture lab technician.
    “Theft has pretty much stopped. People still pick for a snack now and then but that is less now also,” he said.
    The signs serve as an aid to campus police patrolling as well, according to Hildebrandt, who said an officer can easily approach someone and point out a nearby sign with the warning, then give a verbal warning of more serious action if unheeded.
    “Police can be seen frequently in the area which also helps with security on the California Pathway,” reminded Hildebrandt.

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    New Signage Deters Thieves at Stan State’s Orchards