MODESTO (CBS13) – An investigation into whether drones helped thieves steal property from farms in Stanislaus County is underway.
According to the Stanislaus Sheriffs Department, two farms in Hughson had vehicles stolen in the last week. In one case, the victim says they were targeted just minutes after a drone flew overhead.
“It’s really kind of scary. I hate to see that happen in an ag community,” said farmer Martin Pohl.
Pohl says farmers in this region are already on alert, working to protect their properties and valuable commodities from thieves, but the possible use of drones is what’s alarming.
“It circled over our entire place. Our employees saw it and thought it was strange, and then an hour later, our pickup was stolen,” he said.
Pohl has owned his almond ranch in Hughson for decades, and securing his property with fences and guards has been key. But on Saturday night, just shy of midnight, thieves got in and stole his company pick-up truck.
“The truck was actually hooked up to a field elevator, and the guy that stole it also unbolted it and drove off with it,” he said.
But just minutes before the vehicle was taken, employees reported seeing a drone hovering over their ranch.
“The potential for the drone to be watching over us seeing how our operation works, then within 30 minutes after that our truck was stolen out of our yard with our boys working the night shift is disturbing,” said daughter in law Kelly Kindle-Pohl.
“They seemed to know where everything was because it only took a couple minutes. It was perfectly timed, and they were able to drive out of the fence undetected,” she said.
A short time later, a private security company — Rank Investigation and Protection out of Modesto — found the truck engulfed in flames in a walnut orchard about a mile away.
“We just don’t know why…what was there to gain by taking a pick-up truck and burning it?” said Pohl.
Just two days prior, another ranch closeby also had a vehicle stolen.
“What rights do we have as farmers? It’s basically like an invasion of our privacy,” he said.
CHP and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department are now investigating. Meanwhile, the Pohl family wants to warn other farmers of this possible new twist to rural thefts.
“I think now instead of walking out to see who’s on your property you need to look up at the sky, and see what’s watching you,” said Kelly.