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Clements meeting focuses on rural crime

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Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013 12:00 am

Although the rural town of Clements about 12 miles east of Lodi hasn’t been hit hard by crime at local ranches, law enforcement authorities gave advice to residents on how to avoid being a crime victim.

Representatives from the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s rural crime task force and the District Attorney’s Office discussed with an estimated 50 residents who filled the Clements fire station Thursday night how street gangs steal pricey metal, tractors and other farm equipment to acquire drugs and purchase guns.

“Metal theft is probably your biggest problem now,” said Sheriff’s Detective Dan Levin, who focuses on crime in rural areas.

That includes copper, stainless steel, brass, sprinklers and irrigation pipe, Levin said. Metals are often recycled or sold to pawn shops, he added.

One community that is getting hit hard by rural crime is Linden, which grows a lot of walnuts, Levin said. Many people are stealing walnuts from Linden farms, he said.

Deputy District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said that gang members — some located as close to Clements as Lockeford — are known to grow marijuana hidden between corn and asparagus stalks. And it may be on your property, she said.

Salazar strongly urged residents to avoid confronting people on their property if they don’t recognize them. Many gang members growing marijuana are armed and dangerous, she said. Instead, residents should call 911 if they see suspicious people on their property.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep criminals behind bars for extended periods of time because of the state’s prison realignment program, said Michael Mulvihill, the county’s chief deputy district attorney.

A sampling of Clements residents attending Thursday’s town-hall meeting said they haven’t seen a crime wave in their community. Instead, they showed up to the meeting just to find out what is going on.

William Henderson, who serves on the Clements fire board, said he’s called the Sheriff’s office a couple of times when he saw suspicious-looking people on his property, but he hasn’t seen any real problems in the community. But he saw another benefit to hosting the town-hall meeting.

“We start to see who are neighbors are, and that helps,” he said.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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