Monday, February 11, 2008


Crime of the Day: The Avocado Caper

A 44-year-old Fillmore man was arrested Friday morning on suspicion of grand theft after he allegedly stole avocados from a farm. —staff writers for the Ventura County Star reporting in "Officials suspect man of stealing avocados"

This is the sort of story that makes me want to drop my pen and rush down to the Pink Snapper.

Here's the remainder of the item—

Deputies said Jose Casillas fled the Baymore Farms area in Fillmore after they arrived to investigate the theft of avocados.

Casillas was caught running through a riverbed about 7:10 a.m., deputies said.

They did not say how many avocados were found on Casillas, only that it was at least $100 worth, enough to make the alleged theft a felony.

They said Casillas had the avocados in a backpack.

He was taken to Ventura County Jail where he was being held late Friday.

Deputies are also investigating a similar theft at the farm earlier this week.

The haul

I assume here that the authorities were playing the same trick they use to inflate the value of drugs seized in a drug raid.1 Since the police didn't reveal how many avocados Sr. Casillas stole, I thought I'd do an estimate, based on their alleged value. Inquiring minds want to know.

Today I checked at the local greengrocer and found I can buy a California avocado for $1.29. Since I'm a helluva long way from California, we may safely assume that an avocado in Ventura County will retail for a dollar or less. The Haas avocado, most typically grown there, weighs in at about a half pound. So for Sr. Casillas to have absconded with more than $100 worth of avocados, he would have had to run along the riverbed with a knapsack filled with more than 100 avocados weighing altogether at least 50 pounds. Can you imagine the size of that backpack?!

The victim

California avocado growers are having it tough. After successfully restricting the entry of Mexican avocados for more than a decade after NAFTA went into effect, the restrictions were dropped this year.

If the thief in the present case is an undocumented Mexican, this would be a crime that assumes the proportions of cattle-rustling.

The police

I wish we had more details of the capture. Was the SWAT team brought in? Was a helicopter used? Did the deputies actually run?

The perp

Again we have no details on either the alleged thief or his motives. Is there a black market for avocados in the area? Is he a fool for guacamole? Or was he just homesick?

The crime

For Sr. Casillas' sake I hope he doesn't have any felonies on his record. In California, famous for its "Three Strikes and You're Out" law, a third felony—no matter how inconsequential—can trigger a sentence of 25 years to life.

The justice of it

Whatever the event, we may be sure that the costs associated with this capture will greatly exceed $100. With the jail, the court and the attorney, they should run into the thousands—maybe tens of thousands. And I have to wonder if it wouldn't make more sense simply to give the man a ticket, which would be resolved by repayment to the victim of the value of the avocados plus payment of a hefty fine to the clerk of the court.

The media hold up cases such as these as examples of "law and order" while politicians and business executives steal us blind. I would feel better about this case if even one of them could be captured running along a riverbed.

Related posts
California: Where money's still worth something (5/1/07)



1If a pound of marijuana is confiscated, for instance, the police may report that they seized drugs worth more than $10,000. This figure can be arrived at if you multiply the number of grams in a pound (453.6) by $25, which itself is likely to be an exaggeration of the actual street value of the drug. This calculation assumes that the pound would have been divided into grams and sold individually—a highly improbable scenario but perhaps not so different from how some corporations calculate their profit expectations. [back]

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