Letter from the Chair: Fruit Pirates in our Midst

While I was packing my car with a week’s supply of water, camping gear, wings and furry hats for my annual pilgrimage to Burning Man, I heard a commotion. Lifting my head, I saw Joe and Donna, two of my neighbors, charging down the street and yelling at somebody. I joined them to see if they needed any help, and discovered that they were chasing away a group of individuals who were raiding another neighbor’s fruit trees.

It turned out that the fruit pirates were well organized: a few people loading bags of fruit into a car driven by another person. As we approached, the car sped away and the rest of the people scattered away on bicycles. I then recalled that a little earlier I had seen the thieves’ blue car cruising down the street, its driver scanning driveways. At the time I had assumed he was looking for an address, but now realized that he was scouting our street for targets.

Families on my block who have fruit trees in their front yards suffered several similar raids this summer. To be sure, not all were as premeditated, but that’s hardly a consolation. People strolling Old Mountain View streets away from downtown are more likely to be local, and having your property violated by people living close by is rather aggravating. I recall an incident in which a couple of middle-aged women denied trying to steal fruit but failed to offer an alternative explanation for being perched in my tree!

I don’t know how widespread this phenomenon is, but I’m perturbed. I’m unhappy to discover that some who live here think it’s OK to steal from their neighbors. I’m also concerned that those who drive here to steal fruit from front yards will move to stealing from back yards or from houses. I haven’t been worried about crime in the neighborhood and I’m not sure I am now, but I’m not as sanguine about it anymore.

The police have the license plate of the car involved in the most recent incident, but they might have higher priorities than tracking the perpetrators. In the meantime, it’s up to us to follow Joe and Donna’s example and keep an eye out for each other. It’s the neighborly thing to do.

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