PINE ISLAND, Fla. - Pine Island is known for its mangoes. They come in all shapes and sizes. But those mangoes are becoming a target for thieves. They're not just stealing one or two, but thousands of dollars worth of fruit.
Neighbors in Saint James City tell WINK News crews will come in the middle of the night, and sometimes even in broad daylight, and strip mango trees.
"We are putting cameras up. We are putting motion sensors up," said resident Annie Wenz. She says it happened to her, and has put up a sign warning would-be thieves to stay away from her trees.
"A huge area of my tree had been stripped and one of my neighbors said 'oh I saw a guy in a pickup truck, backed up loading garbage cans and garbage cans of mangoes'," she explained.
This year, after crooks targeted a friend, she alerted people in the local paper and on social media. "Two huge producing lychee trees were stripped to the bone during the night, in the middle of the night," she said.
She tells WINK News that Pine Island residents started writing in, saying it had happened to them, too. "This is organized. And this is scary. And it's not ok."
Strangers are stripping trees and making a profit on the fruit. Wenz believes they are professionals. "They cut it a certain way, the way they picked it, so it will produce next year, so it won't eleminate the possibility of it producing."
Communities have now started neighborhood watch groups, and are becoming more vigilant.
"What we are asking is that people be aware that it is huge theft. It's also a privacy violation, people coming on your property. We're hoping that if you see someone you will go up to a person and say 'hey! I'm watching this property, what's going on?'" said Wenz. "If you don't feel comfortable with that, take a photo, or make believe you are taking a photo, and take a license plate number."
Of course as a reminder, if you happen to see any suspicious activity you are asked to call the sheriff's office.