Local Agencies Act Following a Spike in Fruit Theft

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MISSION – Local agencies said fruit theft is happening much earlier than in previous years.

Texas Citrus Mutual, an association which represents the interests of citrus growers, tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS fruit thefts in the Rio Grande Valley are an ongoing issue, with them starting to pick up this year they are trying something different.

"It's been surprising again. It's early September so the fruit on the trees are still green and just my office has received at least a dozen reports of fruit theft already which is surprising this early in the game," said Dale Murden, president of Texas Citrus Mutual.

Murden is no stranger to fruit thefts especially in his own groves.

"We use to deal with it all the time and tree theft believe it or not when we would have young trees planted in the ground they would disappear," said Murden.

Murden also said these thefts are starting much earlier than expected, "Typically you have a theft problem before Thanksgiving and before Christmas."

Murden said their agency is making moves now.

This year, Texas Citrus Mutual is using proof of ownership for citrus fruit.

When fruit is stolen from a grove, Murden explained in some cases the spoils are resold elsewhere, this is to help stop that.

"We have several compliance officers go up and down the Valley checking the flea markets to find out where the fruit came from or the road side stands or what have you to try and slow the fruit theft down a little bit," said Murden.

Thieves can cost a grower thousands in potential profits.

"Growers spend a lot of money caring for the crop and for it to just walk off without any opportunity to sell it, it's a loss any way you look at it," said Murden.

In the meantime, Murden added they are also working with local sheriffs to try and prevent the thefts from happening in the first place.

According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, stealing a crop from a farmer is a misdemeanor and can land you a fine up to several hundred dollars.

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