Here’s a really troubling story from Texas. A SWAT team was used to end a woman’s experiment in sustainable agriculture. Armored police with automatic weapons stormed onto Shellie Smith’s Garden of Eden farm in Arlington (a Dallas suburb) and searched the property on Aug. 2, 2013.
The cops were followed by city code enforcement officials, who confiscated organic crops including sunflowers, okra and tomatillo plants, and blackberry bushes. The officials also seized compost and used Weed Eaters® to destroy Smith’s organic gardens.
Smith said the officials hauled off everything that her household needs to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. What’s worse is that police may have used lies about a drug raid to justify their action.
Accused of Growing Drugs
The Arlington Police Department claims that it was conducting a drug raid based on an “anonymous tip” that Smith and her friends were growing marijuana on the property. The police came onto the property around 7:30 a.m. and held several residents in handcuffs for around two hours.
Smith told a Dallas TV station that she was not shown a warrant for two hours. Instead, police simply held her family and friends in the home while code enforcement officials went to work. It is an interesting coincidence that code enforcement officials seemed to be ready to move as soon as police secured the property.
No marijuana was found and only one resident of the property was arrested on a warrant for some outstanding traffic tickets. Smith didn’t say whether she and her friends own any guns or not.
Destroying Sustainable Agriculture
It sounds as if city officials wanted to destroy Smith’s attempt at sustainable agriculture. The SWAT team was used to keep Smith and her friends from stopping the code enforcement officers from destroying or confiscating their property.
The idea seems to be to drive the preppers out of town because their organic gardens drive down the property values. Arlington spokesperson Sana Syed told the media that Smith’s property had been cited for numerous code violations since 2011.
Syed accused Smith of creating blight conditions and being a threat to the safety of neighbors. Smith admitted that she had failed to appear at a code hearing earlier in the year and ignored code officials.
It sounds as if the city used a phony drug raid to punish a woman for daring to grow her own food. It also sounds as if property owners no longer have control of their own property they presumably pay for and pay taxes upon in Arlington. Instead, the city tells you what to do on it.
When Smith ignored the local bureaucrats and the petty politicians, they found a way to punish her. The police department found a way to justify all the money it spent on the SWAT team, and officials were able to destroy and confiscate property without interference from citizens.
Preppers Should Pay Attention
Preppers need to pay attention to this story because it could happen almost anywhere in the United States or Canada, even in many rural areas. Anybody that irritates a local bureaucrat or a politically-connected individual could face this kind of harassment and police intimidation.
Those targeted might be those whose home doesn’t look attractive enough for the local snobs, persons who are different, and those whose property some local real estate developer covets. Anybody whose lifestyle doesn’t fall into some specific pattern such as working nine to five, attending the right church, and not having a nice, well-maintained lawn could be a target.
Anybody growing an organic garden, repairing his or her own vehicle, running a home business, raising chickens, storing firewood, or generating his or her own power could be targeted. Basically, any prepper’s home could be declared an eyesore and targeted for “code enforcement.”
Worse, local police believing that those survivalist nuts have guns will get a chance to call out the SWAT team and play soldier with their fancy toys. All it takes is one anonymous call to the police station about strange plants growing in your garden.
The situation sounds comic, but it could have been very tragic if somebody had pulled a gun while the SWAT cops were storming in. Innocent people could have died in the name of “code enforcement.”
What Preppers Should Learn from This
There are some important lessons for preppers from this incident. The first might to be to pick a relatively remote location for your home if you want to practice sustainable agriculture. Fewer neighbors mean fewer calls to the planning and zoning department.
The second is to check out the local government before buying property; find out what the zoning laws are and how they are enforced. Drive around the community and see if there are any signs of sustainable agriculture. Go to city hall or the county building and ask local officials if it will be okay to grow an organic garden or raise chickens before you buy property.
When you buy property for sustainable living, make sure it is zoned agricultural before buying. That means check the deeds and documents on file in local government records. If you cannot understand them, ask a lawyer with knowledge of zoning laws to check.
Don’t just ask the realtor about this; realtors have been known to distort the facts in order to get a commission. Check and see for yourself before putting any money down on the property.
Beware of Local Politics
Another suggestion is to find a rural area with no zoning. There are some parts of the country, including a few counties in Colorado, that have no zoning.
Never assume there is no code enforcement or zoning because a property is outside the city or town limits. In most areas, such land is under county jurisdiction, and county governments are often worse than city governments.
A final suggestion is to check into the local politics to make sure you won’t be targeted. A great way to do this is to read a few back issues of the local newspaper and to talk to local residents. Find out who has control of the county commissioners (county supervisors in California and Arizona) and the city council. If the local realtors control those bodies, it might be a good idea to look elsewhere.
Being aware of local politics and laws can save you from a lot of problems. Finding a community that is hospitable to preppers and sustainable living might be the real key to survival for many families.