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Deputies arrest suspects for picking Saw Palmetto berries

Posted at 11:42 PM, Aug 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-18 14:26:25-04

The Collier County Sheriff's Office made another round of arrests after catching people illegally harvesting Saw Palmetto berries.

The berries are illegal to harvest without a permit.

"I've seen it for years and years people have always been picking berries in the woods over there," said Golden Gate resident Enrico Avallone.

On Thursday, Joel Floreal was arrested after he refused to drop a bucket of berries he harvested near a vacant lot at 2968 4th Avenue Northeast.

The mounted patrol searched for Floreal in the woods after he fled from deputies.

In another incident, Risler Presenieu was arrested after being caught picking berries near 56th Avenue Northeast.

People are willing to risk arrest picking these berries.

"They're collected in bulk, because there is an herbal supplement industry that will pay money for these fruits," said Florida Gulf Coast Professor of Biology Dr. James Horn.

Horn says the berries are marketed as a fruit that staves off prostate cancer.

"The evidence that's out there doesn't support this claim."

That's not stopping berry pickers from flocking to Avallone's neighborhood.

"The people who take care of my grass, they are currently picking them in my backyard, i gave them permission, they're good people, so i'm letting them do it."

Avallone isn't worried about having any uninvited guests pilfer berries in his yard.

"We're out in the estates.  people are a little cautious, several people out here protect their property."

Experts are worried over harvesting the berries could harm animals that rely on them as a food source.