So, whose pecans are they? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

So, whose pecans are they?

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November 22, 2007

Grady County -- The holiday season is also pecan season in south Georgia. There's a problem in many pecan orchards this year. People are stealing the nuts from private land all over the area. A lot of people just don't understand the law.  

There's no doubt many of you enjoyed a delicious pecan pie with your thanksgiving feast. Georgia is the country's largest pecan producer. This year, prices are up, and so are thefts of the nuts.

"A lot of people are going in stealing, just actually going in the groves at night and picking up hundreds of pounds and selling them," said Grady County Sheriff Harry Young.

You might be thinking its obvious, you can't go onto someone else's property and pick up their pecans. But what you might not know is, its even illegal to pick up ones that have fallen onto a public right of way.

 Many of the larger pecan trees have huge branches that overhang past their property line.  "Wherever that tree is growing, if its on a man's property, all the nuts are his also," Young said.

Its a law the sheriff says was passed in the '70s, but many people are not aware of it. "Its an ongoing thing here lately. We've had some people almost come to blows with it. They catch the people stealing, they say 'that's my pecans you can't have them.' And they say, 'they're on the right of way they've got a right to pick them up,'" Young said.

The sheriff says pecan dealers and others can help cut down on people knowingly stealing pecans and then profiting by selling them.  "It doesn't hurt to ask them where they get them, or what's your name. Because they're selling them on the black market. What we call the black market, they're selling them on the street."

Whether its a whole orchard, or just one tree, authorities say you better have the owner's permission before you pick up a single nut.

Sheriff Young says pecan theft has become so prevalent in Georgia that at the Georgia Sheriff's Association conference last week that they held an hour long class was held on the subject.

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