Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lawlessness in the Georgia pecan orchards

A story in today's New York Times about pecan theft in Georgia highlights the ways in which spatiality disables or defeats law and those who are its agents or enforcers. The gist of the story is that, with pecan prices very high ($1.50/pound), pecan theft has become increasingly appealing--and is therefore a burgeoning problem in the state's pecan belt. This is creating big problems for growers.

Kim Severson's story, dateline Fort Valley, Georgia, population 8,106, makes several references to the opportunity presented by the nuts because the orchards are "unpatrolled"--because of the difficulties spatiality poses to protecting them from theft. Here is an excerpt:
To protect themselves, growers have installed security cameras. But since most thefts happen at night, it's hard to identify the culprits. The growers have hired security guards and added fences topped with barbed wire. But the orchards are too large to patrol effectively, and thieves cut through the chain-link fence almost as soon as it goes up.
In spite of these challenges, 50 people have been caught stealing pecans from the 2600 acres that comprise Lane's Southern Orchard in Fort Valley this year. More than 30 people have been arrested for pecan theft in Peach County, population 26,019 (of which Fort Valley is the county seat), while 16 have been arrested in Mitchell County, population 23,808, which has seen 37 reports of pecan theft.


KevinN said...

It's a shame that the farmers are going to lose out on potentially hundreds of thousands dollars of profit this year. However, it does not sound like there is an easy solution outside of increasing security measures. The fact that there are mobile buying stations that drive up to people's front doors to buy the pecans off their front lawn suggests that pecans are extremely prevalent in that part of the country. Even if the buyers tried to make sure they were not purchasing stolen goods, it would be impossible to ever be entirely sure. Without posting guards around the perimeter of their property 24/7, it doesn't sound like there's much farmers can do to protect themselves from thieves.

Patricija said...

Another rural dimension of the news story is that even the casual “yard nut” picking is profitable. The article states that "[i]n rural Georgia, selling pecans that have fallen from the trees in one’s yard is a country version of returning cans and bottles for instant cash." I associate turning in cans and bottles with homeless individuals and extreme poverty (and also more affluent kids who are trying to supplement their allowance). I also never associated it exclusively with urban until reading this comment. Is this statement trying to equate rural individuals who are monopolizing on the pecan market with urban poverty? Or perhaps, it is equating rural self-sufficiency through produce with urban self-sufficiency of profiting from trash? I'm not sure what the statement was trying to say, but I think even such a seemingly simple sentence (possibly meant to be only literarily clever) is laden with rural stereotype and judgment.

Azar said...

It seems to me that the best solution here would have to come from the legislature. Since these crimes are so hard to protect against, the penalties for stealing pecans should be steeper than thefts of items of similar value whose theft is more easily regulated. Enough people have been caught that an increase in the penalty should be an effective deterrent. The deterrent factor alone seems like more than a justifiable reason for an increased penalty.