With pecan market up, thefts increase

January 21, 2011

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ROSWELL, N.M.—Roswell-area pecan growers say thefts of the nuts are up this year because of an increase in market prices.

But it's not just the large-scale orchards that are being targeted. Thieves are hitting homeowners and even a museum property -- anywhere they can find pecans.

John Wilson, owner of The Nut House, said pecan thefts have been increasing for the past few years. He said current prices for farmed nuts are running between $3.75 and $4 per pound this year. For street or yard pecans, prices are $1 to $1.75 per pound.

Roswell police spokesman Travis Holley said anyone who takes something from someone else's property is stealing. Chaves County sheriff's deputies have been assigned to patrol pecan orchards at night.

"The most we can charge them with is larceny and possible criminal trespass," sheriff's Lt. Britt Snyder said. "There's no pecan-stealing statute on the books."

Wilson said thieves often steal pecans after homeowners have harvested them from the ground and placed the nuts into containers. He recommended securing the pecans after gathering them and installing security systems to monitor visitors.

"We photograph people as they come in the door to identify them," Wilson said.

Ken Smith, superintendent of Roswell's parks and recreation department, said city employees are constantly "having to run people off" from parks and other city property during the pecan harvest season every fall and winter.

"They use broom sticks, PVC, rocks, anything to reach the branches," he said.

That kind of rough treatment often damages the trees. Smith said parks employees rarely call police to report the incidents unless thieves become belligerent.

"People have to realize that they are stealing from the city," he said.

Bonnie Montgomery of the Historical Foundation for Southeast New Mexico said she has chased pecan thieves off museum property. She also has a pecan tree in her yard at home and said it was hit twice on one recent day and five times on a second day.

Montgomery estimates she has lost 25 percent of her pecans this year and said her neighbors also have been targeted.

"It's one thing to pick up nuts from the street. I hate to see them go to waste," Montgomery said. "But it's another to go into my yard. What I really resent is the damage done to the trees."


Information from: Roswell Daily Record,