Trespassing issues/Noise complaints/O.A.N.

Written By: By Deputy John Fomasi, Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, Rural Crimes Task Force
Published: May 6, 2019

With spring upon us, it’s time to start gearing up for the busy seasons ahead. Whether you are preparing for another crop harvest, calving season, 4-H projects, or just cleaning up around your rural property, we should all be thinking about how to keep our properties safe.

In 2018, we saw some unprecedented activities in Sonoma County by animal rights activist groups. The Sheriff’s Office fielded numerous questions regarding trespassing and how to combat it.

Here are some tips to better protect your home, ranch, or rural property.

One of the most important and easy things you can do is to post good signage on your property. This sends a message to the unwanted guest that they are not welcome and could be subject to criminal prosecution. Post signs at all entrances to your property. Make sure the signs are clearly visible. Post additional signs along your property lines, no less than three
signs per mile. Signs are generally inexpensive and will help law enforcement when building a case against a trespasser.

Install gates to all entrances to your property. This is not always possible, but a locked gate with good fencing should leave no doubt in someone’s mind that they are not allowed to enter without permission. If you have a gate use hex link or square link chain to secure it. These types of chains are a little more expensive but are more resistant to bolt cutters. Use of a lock made of Boron metal is also much more difficult for a criminal with a set of bolt cutters to defeat. Boron coating is stronger than steel and is usually a hexagonal design. These locks will also cost a little more but are well worth it.

Many of you may have large pieces of property and in some cases putting up fences is not possible. There are still solutions for preventing certain types of entry in these cases. For instance, when the ground gets wet people looking to go “mudding” will seek out an easy target. Unfenced fields exist all over Sonoma County and you may have been a victim this type of activity in the past. In addition to posting signs, you can cut deep berms along roadways (on your property) to prevent vehicles from being able to access your field.

Lastly, cameras are a great tool for assisting law enforcement in a trespassing investigation.

While we realize cameras are not always an option in a rural setting, there are multiple options you may choose to deploy on your property. “Hard wired” cameras can be used around your home, barn, or property, but require electricity and usually internet connection. Many manufacturers these days also make wireless cameras that use a cellular subscription. This, however, means you will have to have cellular service in the area you plan to deploy the camera. When it comes to rural property this can be a limiting factor. There are numerous camera configurations and features available. A relatively inexpensive option is game cameras. These cameras can be used to take still photographs or short video clips. There are numerous options available in this category, which will allow you to find the best option for your property. Additional accessories such as security boxes and cable locks are available to help protect your investment from theft.

No matter what kind of issue you are experiencing when it comes to trespassing, immediately contact the Sheriff’s Office to report the incident. The sooner you contact us, the better chance
we will have at establishing a case against trespassers.

Another common issue in the county this time of year is noise complaints related to agricultural operations. These complaints are normally generated by citizens living in rural
communities that may be new to the area. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has adopted Section 30-25, which states a farming operation shall not be considered a nuisance as long as the operation is within normal practices and procedures. The following is the full text of the ordinance;
Sec. 30-25. – Nuisance—Agricultural operation.
No agricultural operation conducted or maintained on agricultural land in a manner consistent with proper and accepted customs and standards, as established and followed by similar agricultural operations in the county, shall be or become a nuisance for purposes of this code or county regulations if it was not a nuisance when it began, provided that such operation complies with the requirements of all applicable federal, state, and county statutes, ordinances, rules, regulations, approvals, and permits. The provisions of this section shall not apply where a nuisance results from the negligent or improper management or operation of an agricultural operation.

If you are experiencing issues such as these with neighbors, help educate them on normal/ natural farming practices. You can also contact the Sheriff’s Office Rural Crimes Task Force for assistance if necessary.

In Sonoma County, farming operations are gearing up for the summer months. Therefore, your equipment will be in the fields and exposed to possible theft. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to call and apply for an Owner Applied Number (OAN). We can even assist you in applying the number to your farm equipment. If you have any questions or would like to apply for an OAN, please call the Sonoma County Rural Crimes Task Force, (707) 565-3940.

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