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Resentment builds against fruit thieves

Original post made on Oct 8, 2009

Downtown property owners say they are creeped out and irritated by the regular presence of fruit thieves in their neighborhood ' people who sneak onto properties and strip trees of their fruit, which the residents believe is then sold elsewhere.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, October 8, 2009, 11:36 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by Bruno, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 8, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Downtown neighbor Eugene Cordero had a different take on the situation.

"It's been my observation that there is more fruit rotting in our front yards than fruit picked by unwelcome guests," he wrote on the neighborhood e-mail list. "The real issue is the expanding divide between rich and poor. If people were not in such challenging times, they wouldn't resort to stealing food to feed their families."

Yeah, somebody's got to gas up that Mercedes Benz and it ain't cheap.

Posted by lemonGrower, a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm

It's not happening only in Old Mtn View. My lemon tree is routinely stripped of its delicious lemons. I never thought I would have to resort to buying lemons, as I am used to picking them just when I need to use them.

Posted by Jon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 8, 2009 at 2:14 pm

While I certainly don't want anyone in my backyard, or walking around my front yard. Picking ripe fruit from the sidewalk is NO problem. Why you may ask? Because because as good humans we should take care and help out others. How many of those would go bad if not picked up? If some wants an orange or two, knock your self out.

Now, if they are cleaning your tree, and selling that for profit, I can see someone being upset. But if they just offered me 20% of the cut, they can have them =)

Posted by kanan k, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 8, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I kinda partially agree with the home owners whining about fruit thieves. I agree that they are paying mortgages and they own the land and all that...but where is the common sense? I agree that no one has the right to trespass on someone else's property. How stingy are these rich home owners? This shows how screwed the rich are in our society. How quickly they can blame fruit stealers as something more than that with absolutely no proof? if you are so concerned, stand guard or apply your own private security 24x7. If you really want to make it better, why don't you hire some school kid or college kid and get all the fruits of you trees before someone steals and becomes one of Forbe's richest billionaires. What a sick society these rich people have created?

Posted by Bruce Karney, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 8, 2009 at 2:26 pm

If thieves didn't steal my fruit, I'd be able to take it to the Community Services Agency, which provides free food to low-income residents of our area.

By the way, persimmons sell for more than a dollar each at local supermarkets, so just one bagful is more than the $50 threshold mentioned by the police. My two trees that have been stripped produce about 400 persimmons per year each. That's about $1000 worth of fruit at retail prices.

Posted by letsgetreal, a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 8, 2009 at 2:35 pm

kanan k - pls don't assume all home owners are rich. Some people that own homes grow their food to keep food on their table. You made a very shallow statement

Posted by Jack, a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I used to live in the Monta Loma neighborhood and I am not rich!!! I had an apricot tree in a fenced backyard that was completely stripped one day while my wife and I were at work. not only is this theft but what ever happened to a law against trespassing on private property?
Another time I confronted a couple of fruit theives stripping a neigbors pommegranite tree who refused to leave. I told them that it wasn't their tree and they told me it wasn't mine either. Only when I took out my cell phone to call the police did they leave. And they were the Mercedes theives, probably the same who are now striking in downtown....

Posted by danilo, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 8, 2009 at 3:56 pm

waiting to read USA's take on this... I think I know where it'll go. heh.

Posted by Kris, a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm

LOL danilo! Maybe USA is busy up a fruit tree downtown...

Posted by Get Real, a resident of Rex Manor
on Oct 8, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Time for Eugene Cordero and Kanan K. to grow-up, get jobs, and become a productive members of society! That rhetoric works on college campuses but not in real life.

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

USA is a registered user.

Within a block of my office, there is a prodigious orange tree and two fig trees that make a god-aweful mess on the sidewalk.

Here's what we need to do. Find some homeless guys, the unemployed, or others in need. Give them cameras and clip boards. Have them walk the sidewalks throughout Mountain View photographing the sidewalks and streets with fruit. After three incidents of fruit not cleared from the sidewalks, the city fines the tree owners $50.

The people in need would get a paycheck, plenty of exercise, and all the fruit they can eat. The wages would be paid from the fines, so the taxpayers would be spared. The city would make a net profit, so it could finally afford to buy that plaque declaring Mountain View to be a sanctuary city. And, the sidewalks would be cleaner and safer.

Posted by jane, a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm

"Owning" a home does not mean that a person is not struggling. It costs money to take care of and maintain fruit trees. When my persimmons are ripe we use some ourselves and take many of them and sell them to the fruit stands - it is a way to earn money that we can certainly use. I offer free persimmons to anyone who asks to pick the ones from the top of the tree. Saying that it is okay for someone to enter my property and take my things without asking is not okay... not without asking, and has nothing to do with rich or poor. If someone enters my home without my permission and takes food from my pantry that is not okay either. Unfortunately I have had both of these things happen lately, and the person involved was belligerent because they felt an entitlement that because i had something and they didn't that they should just come onto and into my property and take. It is called stealing when a person does not ask.

Posted by Laura, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 8, 2009 at 4:41 pm

well I am neither rich or a homeowner~ and just got notified a week ago by a neighbor that someone came by and took a "branch of persimmons" off of my tree. 5 years in the house I am renting and this happens every year. Honestly~ it's just plain rude! Even my ten year old daughter has put signs on the tree asking people to not pick the fruit. Let's have some manners people!!!

Posted by Sandy, a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 8, 2009 at 5:32 pm

What is wrong with you folks who say it is OK for someone to take the property of someone else? Private property and the right to say what happens to it is important to all of us. I see that the initial reaction is to blame the societal divide, wealthy versus poor. But the basic problem I garner from this is the lack of respect for someone who put in the labor and expense to maintain their trees, in order to profit themselves. Simple theft.

If someone wants to organize a fruit collection for needy persons, contact and get permission from the property owners.

I disagree with the low valuation the police put on this problem.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Could these fruit thieves (or some of them) be....... Squirrels? They strip our apricot and cherry trees every year. The birds also take a far lot of it.

Posted by Cooking Mom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 9, 2009 at 8:56 am

I live in a different section of town and so far, I have not experienced this problem. However, I feel I must speak up. I have an apricot tree in my front yard. After many years of tending to this tree, the fruit is good enough to eat and can. This has developed into a small seasonal business for me (I am a stay at home mom), I harvest and process this fruit. It is then sold in local fruit stands. The profits are not terrific, but it is a few extra bucks for some fruit that would otherwise go wasted. We also donate the unused portion of the fruit to a local food bank. We also give away bags of fruits to neighbors. All our neighbors receive my fruit jam as well. It seems like everyone in the community profits. I would hate to be stripped of this wonderful sense of coummnity by having someone in a mercedes come and strip my tree. We own our home but we are by no means rich (we are struggling right along with all the other middle class folks in our neighborhood).

Please, everyone, get a grip and try to look at this issue from both sides. As homeowners we want to help out in our community, but we don't want to have our property rights violated. I am happy to share the fruit, but I really do not want anyone just helping themselves without my express permission. On the other hand, I really do get that there are many folks struggling and living below the poverty level right here in my own community. But coming onto my property and stealing my fruit is not the answer.

Posted by Joni D., a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2009 at 12:31 pm

As the founder of Village Harvest, I appreciate the mention of our volunteer organization, and am also disheartened by the trespassing and theft described in the article.

Village Harvest is a nonprofit organization that harvests extra fruit from backyards - by owner request only! - and passes it on to local food agencies like Community Services Agency of Mountain View. If anyone in the area has fruit trees producing more than they can use, please offer your extra fruit through our web site to help feed the hungry in the community. We arrange a time for our volunteer teams to help harvest your tree, and your fruit donation is eligible for a tax deduction.

Posted by parent, a resident of another community
on Oct 9, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I am appalled how many people JUSTIFY why they think it is O.K. to help yourself to someone else's fruit OR vegetables.

1. WHO planted the tree/plant?

2. WHO waters the tree/plant?

3. WHO maintains the pesticides?

4. WHO pays for all of that????????


I consider this behavior stealing and total disrespect towards the owner.

If the owner doesn't care who takes the produce, that is up to them, NOT the picker.

Posted by Donna, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

I work at a place that has a big persimmon tree in the front area. One day a couple came in and asked if they could pick a few persimmons. I said yes, there were plenty on the tree. In about 15 minutes one of the therapists came in and said there was a couple filling up boxes of persimmons!! Since when does a 'few' equals 5 boxes.
I also have a friend in San Jose who gave permission from one lady to come and pick a few avocado's from her tree, the lady came back with buckets and friends with buckets!!

Even when permission is asked, they still try and take advantage of the homeowner.

Posted by Jorge, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 9, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Stolen fruit tastes WAY better!

Posted by Karen, a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 9, 2009 at 4:31 pm

haha Jorge! I have been known to "borrow" a lemon occasionally, should I feel guilty? I have a neighbor who has a "help yourself" sign for his zuccini, but asks for you to leave something like a beer. I will ask him to grow better veggies next year...

Posted by little off topic, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 9, 2009 at 5:26 pm

This may be a little off topic, but driving in a Mercedes Benz to steal fruit? I recently saw one of the "homeless" people, with one of those "Will Work for Food" type signs, making a call on his cell phone! His conversation involved the amount of money he took in there vs when he was outside Costco. Apparently Costco shoppers are cheapskates (according to the homeless guy). Unemployment is very high, but if you can afford cell phone service, you do not really need to panhandle, do you?

Posted by Thom, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 10, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Here's an idea... maybe knock on the door and ask "May I pick some of the fruit from your tree?" No one has any business in your private yard, fenced or not.

Posted by eight, a resident of Castro City
on Oct 10, 2009 at 11:09 pm

You shouldn't have to hang a sign asking people not to steal from you. Next they'll be telling women to hang signs on their purses saying "please don't snatch this purse".

..."the fruit thieves may not be aware that what they are doing is not OK...." So tell me who doesn't know it's wrong to STEAL? to strip hundreds of dollars' worth of fruit from someone's trees and sell it; to break into a yard and take something that ISN'T YOURS? Last I heard, stealing was still illegal, and so was trespassing. Or has this become a land of lawlessness?

I don't think this is poor people stealing food to feed their families. If they get away with this, they may indeed start going into people's homes to take things (if they aren't doing that already.) Some fools seem to think they're entitled to just take whatever they want, even other people's belongings. Maybe they don't believe in private property (but I bet if you took something of theirs they would object!) Maybe they think the laws were made to be broken (or just shouldn't apply to them), and are probably laughing at their victims' frustrated attempts to get help from the police.

Maybe the residents should set up security cameras (thee are cheap ones) - they should keep reporting these thefts to the police, but if they can't prosecute these perps in criminal court, at least sue the thieves in small claims court for the resale value of the fruit and the cost of any landscaping repairs.

Posted by Larry, a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 11, 2009 at 3:16 pm

Some of the comments above that imply its ok to trespass and steal fruit because of 'hardtimes'. This shows a total lack of concern for respect of people's property rights. In addition, if a fruit thief were to fall out of your tree whilst stealing he or she may try sue you. In that case a trespassing thief would cause your personal liability portion of your homeowners insurance to sky rocket. The right thing to do is if the person is really needy is to ask permission from the property owner before trespassing and committing an unjustifiable criminal act of stealing.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 11, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Man stabbed at Century 16. Double murder suspects indicted. Man arrested for hate crime.

Front page news: theft of fruit (with a color photo nonetheless)

And to think people want the police to arrest people for this, the courts prosecute, and our jails to hold them???

Where do the ideas for these stories come from? Speak of this on your neighborhood blogs and facebook pages. We have truly turned into a poorboy's Palo Alto with no concept of real world problems.

Posted by anon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 12, 2009 at 12:28 am

Jack - I agree with you, in part. This story is trivial compared to the horrible violence in those situations. However, I think this story has a place in this forum. Trespassing and stealing are not felonies, but they are still crimes and should not be tolerated in Mountain View, Palo Alto (who had the same story on their forum too) or anywhere.

What's wrong with being like Palo Alto anyway? The property values over there are better than gold so they must be doing something right. I say we keep our standards high and not tolerate any form of crime in our city. (And ps - we are not anybody's poor boy)

Posted by anon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 12, 2009 at 12:33 am

Here is the link to the similar forum topic on Palo Alto Weekly:

Web Link

(kind of strange that this topic came up on both forums at the same time)

Posted by Laura, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2009 at 3:22 pm

This is a terrible violation of people's property. I would set up security cameras to catch the thieves.

Posted by kanan k, a resident of Shoreline West
on Oct 12, 2009 at 4:09 pm

There are lots of good suggestions here from people who have common sense and I noted some racistic and bigots posting offensive statements against Mexico. My reply to 'Get real' is I am a grown up and have been a tax paying productive member for many many decades. I completely agree that trespassing and stealing are felonies and I won't want anyone entering my property either. My point and assumption here is, the fruit thieves are stealing jsut ruits and not burgalarizing and stealing anything valuable. People who think these are seious offenses should definitely get an alarm or a german Shepherd. I understand persimmons cost $1 in Safeway , may be $10 in Wholefoods..But Safeway and Wholefoods is not going to buy persimmons from you. I 110% agree that donating to CSA is a good idea. Are persimmons related to Richard Simmons and Gene simmons in anyway? LOL

Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2009 at 5:06 pm

USA is a registered user.

kanan -- Lordy, there was only one post that referenced Mexico which was mine. It was clearly a sarcastic if not humorous reply to danilo's poke. You PC types need to get some perspective.

Posted by June Welsh, a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2009 at 5:46 pm

a) This article is about criminal trespassing & property theft. While it did have a comment by Eugene Cordero & mentioned one site that people may not have heard of; it's really not about economic hardship, social inequality, & possible ways to alleviate those problems; it's about outright theft, plain & simple.
b) Property rights are well-defined. No one has the right to set foot on someone else's property without permission, regardless of how tantalizing things on their property look. If you think fruit tree owners just should be less uptight about their fruit trees being stripped bare, when do you think they should start objecting. When their potted plants, nice Halloween decorations, or their strings of holiday lights disappear? Should those types of items also be considered 'o.k. to steal' just because the thief may not have ones of their own? What about that nice, comfy 'morning coffee & paper' chair on the front porch? How much do you think people who own property should be expected to 'share' with people who are blatently trespassing before you would draw a line & say "o.k., now that's stealing!"?
c) While most people are more than happy to share their abundance IF ASKED, it's wishful thinking that those who 'have' an abundance will give what their excess to those who 'have not', both willingly & freely. While totally un-cool ethically & morally, it's well within a person's rights to let the things they own go to waste while others need desperately; & I've met people who claim that right "for the principle of the thing". It's their property, & they'll be damned if anyone will tell them what they can/can't do with it; & they may not even want whatever they have in abundance, but they're sure not about to let anyone else get their hands on their stuff.
d) Several friends in nearby cities/towns DO use all of the fruit their trees bear, IF they get to the fruit before the thieves do. One of my co-workers used to bring in extra zucchini & tomatoes to share with those of with no garden access. A friend, who makes fruit jam to give as holiday presents because she don't have money for "store-bought" gifts, was crushed last year to find her tree stripped bare just hours before several of us were due to come help her harvest her fruit for jam-making. Another friend has had to cancel several appointments with a non-profit scheduled to come harvest his excess fruit, because thieves keep coming into his fenced-off back yard with ladders & picking all the fruit he was going to donate to the non-profit!
e) Eugene Cordero makes a point - & I really do agree - that there are a lot of people out there struggling to feed their families. BUT, I think he's missed the point that there's a HUGE difference between stopping to ask permission vs. just committing outright theft. These are not unwelcome "guests", as "guests" implies a prior invitation, something the thieves did not ask for. Mr. Cordero, the "real issue" is that, even in tough times, manners count; ask permission & there's a very good chance that even "in such challenging times, they wouldn't resort to stealing food to feed their families". Plus, how does economic inequality justify the stripping a fruit tree BARE - now the thief has all & the owner has none? If they're only stealing fruit from the tree to feed their family, how come they're taking ALL of the fruit off that tree & leaving nothing for it's owner's family? If this were only to feed their family (& not to sell), the thieves must have one heck of a large family to have stolen over 4 large paper bags of apricots from my friend's backyard (a low estimate at that)! And how many lemons can one family possibly eat?!? Charity cannot be forced, but neither should it be stolen. There are non-profit agencies tasked to help people put food on their table; thievery & trespassing from others is not the answer, & anyone who sees this type of thing occurring should call the cops immediately - the cops will explain the difference between permission & trespassing, & maybe the thieves will start asking & stop thieving!
Final words: for those of you who were thinking that this issue, that kind of trespassing is really no big deal, how do you expect the police to distinguish a 'Peeping Tom' or 'potential burgler casing a home' from a 'non-permission asking fruit gatherer' looking for fruit?
And, Kudos to the Voice for giving out the non-profit's contact infomation.

Posted by OMG, a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 12, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Good info for everyone!!! How to control fruit theft.

You no longer need to keep your .45 or AK-47 sitting out on the coffee table... a can of wasp spray will do!

I asked the local police department about using pepper spray and they recommended a can of wasp spray instead. The wasp spray can shoot up to twenty feet away and is a lot more accurate,
while with the pepper spray you have to get too close and the thief could overpower you. The wasp spray temporarily blinds the thief until they get to the hospital for an
antidote. It's perfectly legal. Thought this was interesting and might be of use...

Posted by Kathy, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 13, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Of course if one of the fruit stealers trips and falls on your property and becomes diasbled the homeowner will probably get sued!!! The argument that this is a rich vs poor issue is really ridiculous. Of course it is stealing and of course the property owners should be upset, why is that a hard concept for some people to grasp?

Posted by Gary, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Hard times? OK, so who lives on lemons, avocado, and only fruit? No these folks are thieves plain and simple. Whether it's one fruit, or a truck full, theft is theft and nothing justifies trespass and theft.

So, everyone who has a fruit tree has a Mercedes? No, no they do not. So we're stingy huh? Why not open our doors and let them take the food from out pantries? I have pasta, veggies, all sorts of canned things AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO KEEP AND USE THEM!!!

Look if I have a dozen mangos or 200 I'll give to who I want and not a thief. If they're on the ground, they get tilled back into the ground or go into a compost pile, nothing goes to waste here.

I once had an avocado that was stripped completely bare by thieves EVERY YEAR! I rarely got to enjoy even one one because I prefer tree ripened fruits and they took them unripe for sale, so I cut it down.

I had my cypress shadowbox fence broken by thieves who were in the act of stripping a rare mango cultivar.

No one has a "right" to anything on my property that I own. Anyone using that logic should hand over the keys to their car to anyone who has "need"

Sheesh, from a "right" to air conditioning, to a "right" to a free home to a "right" to things on my property. Sounds like Communism to me.

Posted by Catherine, a resident of another community
on Mar 31, 2013 at 5:55 pm

^-- What Gary said. And I say that as a Democrat and getting real sick of the entitled attitudes.

I'm a part-timer and have decided to grow my own fruit & veg and getting ready for bees next year. On a lark I thought to Google fruit thief and am appalled to find out people think I must be rich and are therefore going to feel entitled to my sustenance. I live in a corner house with an exposed yard through the driveway. Oh, goodie. Now I get to pay for a fence. At least I already own cameras because of someone entitled to thing in my car a few times a year (at least what I keep in the car is worthless, but still!)

The only hope I have is that I live in SoCal and there are still orange groves around and plenty of people up in the thick of the neighborhood have far more exposed fruit trees. But I live on the edge of the neighborhood... easy in and out. Ugh.

Posted by Carmingo, a resident of another community
on Jul 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Theft is theft. Most people on here who are writing that it is "alright" to steal other peoples' fruit have no idea the amount of work it takes to raise and care for a productive fruit tree...not to mention the cost of the tree, the soil, the pruning shears/tools, the sprays, the spray bottles, etc. And secondly, most fruit thieves are too stupid to pick the fruit at the right the entire harvest is lost (the stolen fruit doesn't ripen) and the homeowner is out of his/her hard work.

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