By Clint Thompson
Farmers need to beef up their security amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Gene McAvoy, Associate Director for Stakeholder Relations for the University of Florida IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
As unemployment continues to skyrocket across the country, this often leads to an increase in theft instances. McAvoy said farmers are vulnerable right now since fewer people and eyes are on the farm.
“When we were back in the recession era in the middle part of 2008, 2009, we saw a big up-take in unemployment. People are hungry. If you grab a box of chemicals on a farm or grab a couple of boxes of chemicals … that stuff is worth $400, $500 a jug sometimes,” McAvoy said. “You can grab three or four boxes and run. You’ve got some money to earn. Then they’ll turn around and sell it to unscrupulous buyers looking for a deal.”
He’s already received reports of a couple of animals being slaughtered, 16 head of cows stolen and equipment taken in two other instances.
McAvoy stresses to producers to take extra precautions during these desperate times.
“Mark equipment in a place that’s not readily visible. If you lose a tractor or a disc or whatever, you have markings on it. So if the sheriff gets it or you see it, you can identify it,” McAvoy said. “Up your security. Make sure you’re checking your gates. Don’t keep a lot of inventory on hand. As I said, especially chemicals, you grab four gallons of certain products, you’re looking at close to a thousand bucks or more in one box. Just get it on an add-needed basis is a big help.
“Camera systems are really cheap these days. You can get, for a few hundred dollars, wireless cameras that you can put around your strategic areas, your entrance gates, your spray shed, your office, your equipment barn. Oftentimes, they can be programmed to send alerts to your cell phone.”