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Our Opinon: Ag crime task force needed

February 15, 2002

In an area such as the Imperial Valley, where agriculture plays the leading role in the economy, it is essential that law enforcement focus on curbing ag-related crimes.

The stealing of ag equipment, machinery, vehicles, livestock and crops may not seem as critical an issue as other types of crime, but those who would commit such crimes need to know they do not have a free hand, that law enforcement is watching and taking pro-active steps to stop such crimes. The Sheriff's Office has formed a rural crime task force and that investigative unit has conducted its first operation. The task force recently worked with a similar task force from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department to conduct an operation in the Imperial Valley.

The task force targeted commercial vehicles on Interstate 8 heading toward the Arizona state line and on county and state highways headed toward Mexico. Officers stopped commercial vehicles with vehicle code violations to see whether the vehicles were carrying stolen property.

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While the operation did not end in the recovery of stolen property, it was an important first step. More such operations will be conducted and that sends an important message to criminals that ag crime in the Imperial Valley will not be tolerated and that ag criminals will never be able to pass freely through the Valley.

The county Sheriff's Office deserves plaudits for taking part in a statewide rural task force aimed at educating the public about ag crime. That task force, made up of departments from 27 counties, allows those in law enforcement to share information that can aid in bringing criminals to justice.

Rural crime is a part of the Imperial Valley. At times it goes unreported. If authorities are to make a dent in such crime, they must be told about it. That is where the public comes in. Authorities say it doesn't matter how small the crime may seem to be, officers want to know about it so they can address it.

That is how authorities can make a difference and ag crime can be lessened.

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