By Patrick Ramsay
If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase ”nut heist,” it might bring to mind images of something like the movie Oceans 11 playing out on a pistachio farm. However, if you’re one of the hardworking nut farmers of California’s Central Valley, you know a nut heist is far more serious than that. A nut heist is a complex, organized, large-scale act of crime, and in recent years, California’s tree nut industry has suffered millions of dollars in losses due to these organized nut heists.
In one common technique, thieves fabricate shipping documents to pose as truck drivers and pick up cargo loads of tree nuts that can be worth upwards of $500,000 depending on the type of nut. While some of the stolen nuts have been tracked down within storefronts, bakeries, and farmer’s markets around the US, law enforcement officials believe organized criminal enterprises are sending cargo loads of nuts to the export market as well.
In response to a recent rash of these nut heists, the California’s tree nut industry is taking action. On Dec. 3, growers, processors and law enforcement gathered at the Emergency Nut Theft Summit in Visalia, California, to discuss the best ways to combat nut theft.
Nut growers have been using various methods to prevent loss of their produce and safeguard their protocols. These methods include fingerprinting and doing a more thorough, in-person check of the truck drivers who come to pick up the loads of tree nuts. Some nut processors are also using GPS in the cargo loads to track the shipments if they go off course. A nut heist is very hard to recognize and harder to stop. Growers, processors, and truck drivers are encouraged to be vigilant, as this is not the kind of crime that can be recognized outright and immediately most of the time. What are some solutions you can think of to stop these nut thieves?