Friday, August 29, 2008
In Palm Desert, California, we read in BBC News, “$20,000 (£11,000) of golden barrel cacti have been stolen in six months.”
In an effort to conserve water in drought-stricken southern California (and money in economically anxious times), the city substituted its “lush lawns” with native desert plants. Now their xeriscaped roadside verges and median strips are lined with cactus, agave, red bird of paradise and lantana. Unfortunately, the “slow-growing varieties, such as golden barrels and agaves, have been targeted” by thieves. The large golden barrels, in particular, “can fetch up to $4,000 (£2,200)” while the smaller ones, with a wholesale price of $100, can be resold in the black market for $50 to $60.
So now “hidden security cameras monitor places where large numbers of the plants are located, while officials will start putting microchips in some cacti, so that stolen ones can be identified.”
They will also soon start recruiting migrant workers for their new Cacti Scene Investigation task force, unfortunately undoing their fiscal conservation.
This crime fighting unit, of course, will inspire a new police procedural drama on network television. CSI: Botany. In each episode, using state of the art gizmos and plain old human insight, dashingly photogenic botanists will hunt down horticultural deviants: orchid thieves; rogue pharmers hired by Iran to breach America's food security; identity theft rings hacking into the wireless networks of major retail stores using outdoor fake shrubbery; guerrilla gardeners; Ken Smith and many others.
POSTSCRIPT #1: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's crop cops doing some forensic aerial photography.