No, that’s not a typo in this week’s blog headline. In the Good Earth Plant Company version of the show, it’s “Law & Order: Special Plants Unit.” We noticed several stories about crime involving nature recently and decided it’s time for our own L&O episode.
In L&O’s hometown of New York City, call it a victory for trees over vandals. The Bloomberg administration wrongly gave Fashion Week organizers permission to chip down dozens of trees and yank out azaleas in Damrosch Park outside Lincoln Center to make room for a fashion show in 2010. After we pick our jaw back up off the floor, we’re glad nearby neighbors including Cleo Dana sued to get their park back. Dana and her neighbors prevailed, and the $500,000 restoration project at the park was unveiled on Tuesday, May 17.
According to the report in the New York Daily News, Tom Reed, 73, a member of the Damrosch family, said he was happy to see the park return to what his family always intended it to be — a place for people of all demographics to come and enjoy peace and art. The list of new plants includes: Muskogee Crapemyrtle, Carex Morriwii ‘Ice Dance,’ Taxus X Media Densiformis, Zelkova Serrata, Taxus X Media ‘Greenwave,’ Pachysandra Terminalis, Tilia Cordata, and Rhododendron ‘Hino Crimson.’
Back in California, one of the top agriculture crimes and rising is bee theft. To many California farmers, bees are more important than water. Bee prices have gone up due to “colony collapse disorder,” killing bees due to drought, disease, and pesticide use. In 2015, poachers stole more than 1,700 hives, and those are only the reported thefts. The Fresno County District Attorney plants to charge a recent bee theft with felony animal grand theft. This carries a higher penalty than regular grand theft and it will be the first time anyone in California has been charged with felony animal grand theft over bees.
Did you know the San Diego County District Attorney’s office has its own specialized agriculture crimes unit? Deputy District Attorneys trained in the laws governing the theft and harm to plants and animals work with the San Diego County Farm Bureau and other agencies to root out crop theft and also crimes against farm and wild animals, such as keeping wild animals for pets when it’s not permitted. Avocado and citrus rustling is a serious business, because they are easily resold and worth a lot of money. But other crops are stolen too, including persimmons, cherimoyas, and even valuable ornamental palm trees.
One Pauma Valley orange grove manager lost 30 percent of his crop to thieves in 2013. Deputy DA Elizabeth Silva, who recently retired after 17 years prosecuting agriculture crimes, urges farmers to put motion activated security and web cams on their property to catch thieves, with date and time stamps to pin down the perps.
Good Earth Plant Company and our clients have not been immune to crime. Over the years, we’ve found if a potted plant in a public area is not nailed down, screwed down or locked down, they can disappear. It’s taken us to a point of putting the poor plant in bondage, making it hard to steal.
The punishment for getting caught stealing plants? How about a year’s hard labor turning manure into fertilizer by day while attending a five-hour plant identification class at night. What are your ideas for proper ag crime punishments? Cue the familiar “Law & Order” sound effect we all love. Chung chung!