Agriculture is such a big part of San Luis Obispo County. And it just keeps growing. Last year, for instance, agriculture became a billion-dollar business in the County. The top five agricultural products are wine grapes, strawberries, broccoli, avocados and cattle. We owe an enormous debt to all the hard-working farmers and ranchers who provide us with the food we eat. That means we want to do right by them. And for us at the Sheriff’s Office that means protecting them, their families and their livelihoods.

That’s why we have a unit at the Sheriff’s office dedicated to all things agriculture. It’s called our Rural Crimes Unit. Their job is to enforce laws and investigate crimes impacting agriculture and rural industries. The Deputies in this unit keep very busy. In the past four years, they’ve responded to 77 burglaries, 146 thefts, 28 vandalism cases, 14 stolen vehicles and 113 cases of animal cruelty or neglect. Like I said, they keep busy.

So that’s why we are very excited about a new, state-of-the-art, crime-fighting tool to help our Rural Crime Deputies. Recently we announced we are partnering with a company called SmartWater CSI to reduce ag crimes. Simply put, this company makes a liquid product to protect farm equipment. It’s a liquid you can’t see, feel, or smell. But once a special light shines on the SmartWater liquid, it emits a yellow tell-tale glow.

Here’s how it works. The liquid has its own unique fingerprint or DNA encryption that’s registered to individual farmers or ranchers who take part in the program. A small dab on a piece of equipment is all that’s required. Now if that equipment is stolen and we are able to locate the criminal or the stolen items, all we have to do is wave a special light and we are able to trace it back to the owner. The liquid lasts for years. It can’t be scrubbed off. And bleach won’t take it off either. And if the SmartWater gets on the hands or clothes of the criminal, we are then able to place that criminal at the crime scene which results in convictions. Some have called this product—and I think it’s a very apt description— the silent, invisible witness.

Another added bonus is the deterrent factor. Signs and stickers will designate equipment and property as being a part of the SmartWater CSI program. The hope is that thieves will see the signage at farms and ranches and decide it’s not worth the risk to try and steal the equipment.

This program is already being deployed in other counties in California as well as around the world. In fact, the SmartWater CSI company claims it already has more than one million registered users. And where it’s been applied, it says burglaries have been reduced by up to 85 percent. Those are impressive numbers. If we can see that kind of reduction in crime in our rural areas, then this program will be well worth it. And that’s some food for thought when it comes to our friends in the agriculture community.