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Agricultural Theft Becoming ‘Professional Organized Crime’

Hints of a crackdown on agricultural theft as judge warns of ‘organized crime’ targeting farmers.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/20/2012, 1:13 AM

Cattle farmer
Cattle farmer
Flash 90

Two men convicted of assisting in the theft of a tractor have been sentenced to 18 and 15 months in jail and a fine of 10,000 shekels each. The punishments are unusually serious for an accomplice to theft with no criminal background, and may be further evidence of a stronger judicial approach to agricultural theft.

The theft for which the two were convicted took place in October 2011. Two men from Palestinian Authority territories stole a tractor from the Israeli agricultural community of Moledet in the Galilee. They hid the stolen vehicle, and the two assistants later came with their truck to pick it up.

The thieves were sentenced to five years in prison.

Judge Lili Yung-Gefer, who handed down the punishments, warned that the theft “testifies to the development of a professional, organized theft industry… with cooperation between residents of the [Palestinian Authority] territories and residents of Israel.”

She also said, “This is therefore a type of organized crime that does tremendous damage. The ability to defend oneself from it is limited, therefore, it threatens to cut at the base of the existence of stable, financially productive agriculture in Israel.”

Judge Yung-Gefen linked the phenomenon to high food prices in Israel, nothing that farmers must invest “tremendous sums of money” in security and in high insurance premiums. “In the end, the entire public pays the price,” she said.

Yaakov Bechar of the Israeli Cattle Breeders Association welcomed the verdict. “This strengthens the trend toward more serious punishments for agricultural theft, from the legal system, in hopes of eradicating the phenomenon,” he said.

The theft of livestock, particularly sheep and calves, from Israeli farms in the Galilee and Negev  is a scourge, with the dirt road running behind the farms in the Kfar Hassidim, lower Galilee area and along the Kishon stream, named "The Calves Route" by suffering farmers.  It is much harder to recover those stolen goods, as it is not practical to check hundreds of stock for markings .