Sheriff Tells Growers ‘Ask Trimmers for References’

Kym Kemp / Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 @ 12:31 p.m. / marijuana

Only in Humboldt (or possibly Mendocino)* would a county sheriff support a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that teaches marijuana growers safe hiring practices. Just this last week, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Garberville/Redway Area Chamber of Commerce have jointly issued hiring guidelines for the illegal marijuana industry that provides much of the county’s economic backbone.

The above Public Service Announcement is circulating in the Southern Humboldt Area.

“It’s your business. Treat it like one,” proclaims the ad which appears in a local paper as well as on the Chamber’s Facebook page.”

The PSA warns “all home business owners” that they “may be in danger” and announces that “the majority of home invasions in Southern Humboldt are committed by persons or acquaintances of past “traveling” workers.”  Then it offers several simple tips.

  • DO NOT hire anyone that you do not know or trust.
  • Hire locals.
  • Ask for ID, take down phone numbers and permanent address information.
  • Check references.

According to Lt. Steve Knight, who admitted frankly that he never thought that in all his years of law enforcement he would ever be having this conversation, “The Sheriff’s office doesn’t want to see anyone hurt or ripped off…Our standpoint is that marijuana is illegal but we surely don’t want people hurt….People aren’t replaceable.  Things are….We wish people did not cultivate.  They do.  Next, we don’t want anyone to get hurt [or] become crime victims.”

Fall brings an influx of travelers to the area hoping for jobs harvesting the plants or trimming the bud or even cooking for the teams of workers. “Our area is known for cultivation and people come from all over the world,” says Lt. Knight. And, he adds, that growers need to be cautious when hiring them.  “When you hire someone that just walks into town, you are taking a significant risk. Don’t go blindly.  There are people in the world who are predators….When someone has money, someone wants to take it.”

Julia Minton, a community member and local professional, has concerns about the PSA. “My overarching concern,” she says, “is it doesn’t speak to the complexity of the issues—that there are good and bad people that are employees AND employers.  My concern, is also that this is putting out erroneous information—that certain type of people [traveling people] are more likely to commit crimes….There is exploitation that goes on on the part of some growers—wage exploitation, sexual exploitation—real exploitation. Not just little stuff….No one wants to talk about it at all.  It’s a dirty secret.”

Knight admits there are no statistics that back up the assertion that “the majority of home invasions in Southern Humboldt are committed by persons or acquaintances of past “traveling” workers.” “We didn’t generate the PSA,” he says but the Department is in support of it.  “We don’t want someone getting ripped off, beaten up…or worse.”

Of course, says Knight, “the best way is to not get involved in an underground trade…I’ve studied Victimology—lifestyle and, what you do, can increase or decrease your chance of being the victim of a crime.” However, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department also believes that growers can decrease their chance of being a victim by following the above suggestions.  Knight went on to elaborate stating that

  • Have some background on who you are hiring.

                   —Normal businesses ask questions.  They get references and so should growers.

  • Do not show, flash or have about large sums of money.
  • Let employees know that other people know who they are.

                  —People hesitate to commit crimes if they think they will get caught so make sure that others know who your employees are and that your employees know they know.

           The Sheriff’s Department isn’t just concerned about the growers, they are concerned about the workers also, says Knight.  He has suggestions for them also.

  • Travelers need to know who is employing them.
  • Tell someone where they will be and who they will be with.
  • Bring a cellphone though remember that not everywhere gets service.
  • Let your employer know that you told a friend where you are.

“I’m concerned for the trimmers and for their employers,” says Knight. Both need to exercise caution and common sense.

In addition, Knight urges neighbors in rural areas to be especially alert this time of year. 

  • Be aware of unusual vehicles and unfamiliar people.
  • Don’t be afraid to jot down license plate numbers
  • Have non-confrontational interactions with people you don’t know that are in your neighborhood.

Knight suggests asking, “Can I assist you in looking for someone?” He urges people to not be confrontational and certainly not to wave guns as that can bring violence (as well as unwanted law enforcement attention.)

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*This was a reference to the large amount of marijuana grown in Mendocino as well as Humboldt not an indication that Sheriff Allman is planning on issuing a similar PSA.

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