Avacado thievery turns rural SoCal into high-crime area with specialized cops

The "Guac Cops" are a special squad of San Diego-area cops who specialize in busting — and jailing! — sneak-thieves who rob small avacado growers of thousands of dollars' worth of "green gold," especially around Superbowl season, when the fences are greedy for chip-dip.

Although there is no set profile of an avocado thief, law enforcement officials say many of them are transients or petty thieves who steal to support a drug habit, sometimes selling avocados to naive or unscrupulous roadside stands and restaurants or to wholesalers in Los Angeles. Last summer, in broad daylight, avocado thieves in Bonsall, west of Valley Center, shot at grove workers as they made their getaway. There were no injuries, but he thieves were never caught.

Ms. Cruz of the San Diego County sheriff's office said there tended to be a correlation between price and theft. Although reputable packing houses require documentation showing where avocados were grown, including an authorized signature, she said it was not difficult to launder avocados — especially around the Super Bowl, which, along with Cinco de Mayo, is the biggest avocado day of the year. "They go anyplace you can think of," she said of rustled fruit. "There's a lot of guacamole out there."