Photo Credits: Aggie File. UC Davis Police Department patrol car driving through campus.
“What you’re stealing is not what you think it is,” said Chief Joe Farrow about thefts in hemp research fields
The California Aggie interviewed UC Davis Campus Police Chief Joseph Farrow about a recent spate of burglaries occurring on campus that occurred in late October and early November. According to a Clery Act notification sent out on Thursday, Nov. 5, approximately 11 burglaries occurred between Oct. 29 and Nov. 4.
These burglaries took place on Orchard Road, Medical Sciences Drive, Russell Park Drive, Primero Grove Circle, East Arboretum Drive, Hutchison Park Drive, the East Quad, the Extension Center, the Social Sciences Building and the Health Sciences Mall.
In response to the burglaries, the UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD) has increased its patrol on campus and is consistently checking doors and entryways. More technology, including key cards and alarm systems, may be introduced in some buildings.
“Unfortunately, it is common knowledge in outer cities that UCD is a target-rich environment, and COVID mask wearing has destroyed our ability to identify people,” said Officer Mikio McCulloch, a member of the Outreach and Community Inclusion Unit for UCDPD, via email. “Also, the thieves are no dummies–they dress like students (even though 99% are not), they know which are the older buildings or less secure, and they pay attention over time and notice where the staff is less vigilant.”
Most of these were what Farrow referred to in the interview as “crimes of opportunity,” several of which were perpetrated by 35-year-old Bluehawk Gonzales, who is not affiliated with the university. According to CBS Sacramento, Gonzales was arrested last Thursday, Nov. 12, while carrying a cash box out of a UC Davis Medical Group clinic building on West Covell Blvd.
“The dollar amount wasn’t really high—he would go in and take what he could see and leave, probably to resell it,” Farrow said. “The scary part for us was that he was going into buildings where people could actually be conducting research and working. He was coming back [a lot] because he could only steal so much at a time.”
Although the burglaries occurred in the days preceding the U.S. presidential election, Farrow said he didn’t think they were politically motivated.
“Sometimes [people are] looking for shelter or a place to sleep—they pull on doors, and doors open, and they go inside because they think the buildings aren’t being used because of the pandemic,” he explained.
Notably, several of the burglaries occurred in the hemp fields off-campus, where the
plant sciences department is conducting research.
Hemp is often mistaken for marijuana and resold as such, Farrow explained.
“We really had to tell people, ‘What you’ve found is not what you think it is,’” Farrow said. “It kind of looks and smells the same, so we made a few arrests out there. [The police department] spent a lot of time out there trying to dissuade and disrupt people who were going to steal the research.”
“The more notoriety the fields get, the more they’re known,” Farrow said. “That’s expensive research, and [people] put years of work into that. Curiosity is more of a nuisance. Destruction and theft are very problematic. Our purpose is to make this campus as safe as we possibly can, and sometimes it’s a community effort and not just a law enforcement effort.”
Gail Taylor, a professor in and chair of the department of plant science, expressed gratitude toward the UCDPD for their efforts in protecting research.
“We are very grateful for the police department for their work and collaboration on this issue,” Taylor said.
Written by: Rebecca Binh-Wallace—firstname.lastname@example.org