Region 8 farmers warned of theft ahead of cold months

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Officials with the Craighead County Sheriff's Office Monday said theft of copper wiring from farmers tends to increase during the coldest months of the year.

In October to November, farmers are wrapping up their operations and preparing for the next year. Once complete, many farmers do not go to a field for several weeks and some equipment is left in the open. This warning came after the Cross County Sheriff's Office issued a news release on the situation last week.

"One of the main problems is between crops, from late fall to early spring. Farmers are not in their fields. Everything is dormant out there. Everybody is asleep and they're left open," said Chief Deputy J.R. Thomas. "With copper over $3/pound now, it's easy pickings in the fields and the farmers would have to be standing out there watching or have some kind of surveillance device out there."

According to Thomas, there have been approximately 14 thefts of farm equipment reported in 2010. That number is expected to increase in the next 60 days.

"The farmers do know that there's not a whole lot they can do about it leaving it out in the fields. Their equipment, they are bringing it around the houses and parking it in their yards, and if they got a shop building big enough, they'll put them in there," said Thomas.

Thomas said there are some things that can't be pulled from the field, such as irrigation pumps and center pivots, which are used to water crops.

"They go out to one of their tractors and just the small battery cables on the tractors are cut off. Even the batteries are gone," said Thomas. "Our huge problem is trying to keep the farmers and the owners to where they can sleep at night."

Thomas said night patrols are told to investigate any suspicious activity in fields, especially if they see flashlights.

"We have come across several farmers out in the fields too because we saw their lights," said Thomas.

David Hodges farms several acres of land in northern Craighead County. He said Monday he's been lucky the last few years, but his friends have been victims of copper thieves.

"There's only so much you can do and with these irrigation motors and all, there's not much you can do with them Batteries and the wiring to the batteries and that type of thing is subject to being stolen," said Hodges. "They'll back up to the motor and tie a chain around the radiator and back up and rip it off the motor just to have the copper out of it."

Hodges said farmers of large areas do not have the resources to keep an eye on all farms.

"We're not making the rounds daily like we would in the summer time when we're irrigating rice. We could go several weeks and not be in some of these farms," said Hodges. "You get in remote areas where there's not a lot of traffic and not a lot of houses around, then you're subject to having vandalism and theft."

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