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'That happened to me to'

June 25, 2014
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

I'm writing because I recently posted in SJC Watchdog and PI Prospect Facebook groups about a problem that received so many comments "that happened to me too!", I thought it made sense to share here.

A friend just told me about the tree on her property being stripped of thousands of lychees in the middle of the night. The tree is so large that ladders were needed to reach all of the fruit. The thieves knew so much about harvesting lychees that they didn't just snip branches, they picked in a way that allows the trees to send out a huge crop next year. (Already planning a return trip?) Her neighbor's tree was also stripped that night.

A few years ago I returned from a week away in June, to harvest my mangoes, to find that someone had stolen hundreds of dollars worth of my fruit.

Obviously someone is selling this stolen merchandise if it is being collected on this large a scale!

I'm writing in hopes that we can put a stop to thieves from on or off island trespassing and taking property that does not belong to them!

My friends who were recently victimized will be filling out police reports. And they have spread the word on their neighborhood watches.

I have urged everyone who sees an unrecognized face harvesting fruit (or taking anything for that matter) from a neighbor's property to consider striking up conversation maybe as a deterrent. (I've said things like "Hi! Just making sure you have permission because this person was robbed of lots of fruit last year and I promised I would watch out for them!" That could weed out thieves from honest people!)

If that feels dangerous, consider taking down a license plate number or taking a photo so that, at least, if your neighbor returns and says they did not give permission, perhaps the thieves can be caught and dealt with appropriately.

If you think someone is gone for the season, please consider that maybe as in my situation a few years ago, that homeowner is just temporarily away and is returning to harvest a years worth of food to freeze and can for friends and relatives and themselves!

It is not yours without permission!

I've even called realtors about foreclosed houses asking if I could pick wasting fruit!

This type of theft is huge business for some! Some of the fruit trees on the islands yield thousands of dollars worth of produce so this is in fact big-time crime!

I'm hoping we can all watch out for each other and drive the thieves away as we have for other "wanknuggety" behavior on the island. Watch. Notice. Speak out. Make a difference!

Thank you all for being my neighbors in paradise. Let's work hard to keep it that way!

Annie Wenz

St. James City



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