Mississippi County Sheriff's Office gears up to catch copper crooks

LUXORA, AR (KAIT) - Like many rural counties across the country and here in Arkansas copper theft is becoming a large problem once again. Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook says he is utilizing all his assets and stepping up efforts to make arrests.

Sheriff Cook says the primary targets are the center pivot irrigation systems as well as abandoned or empty houses. They are being stripped of copper wire and copper piping. Other targets include copper radiators off irrigation pumps and aluminum tubing off irrigation systems.

Cook says, "What they are stealing and destroying is a lot less than what it costs the farmers and insurance companies to replace on these wells."

The profit to these thieves might be Four or Five hundred for a large amount of wire but could cost a farmer thousands to replace and repair the damage. Wiring on a center pivot can not be spliced but must be replaced as a whole section. The large amount of thefts and damage has nearly doubled the insurance rates on pivot systems due to heavy claim submission.

Hardy Sales and Service in Blytheville also are losing aluminum products from their storage yard. Video tape shows a man rolling off a shopping cart load at night time.

Sheriff Cook says one of the primary steps is increasing up patrol efforts. "We are increasing patrols in rural farm areas and on our county roads in general."

Mississippi County covers about 900 miles of rural roads with an average of 4 deputies on a shift. Patrol Commander Captain Larry Williams says his deputies are also observing who is traveling on the roads and noting who they stop.

"When they make traffic stops they log who they stop and if they see any suspicious vehicles in their areas they log those as well." Williams said.

Unfortunately many local scrap dealers will still buy product without many questions being asked. Sheriff Cook and CID Commander Captain Larry Robinson say they are working hard with local scrap dealers to try and get more information coming into his office.

Robinson, "They're getting identification, a fingerprint and in some instances they are going a step further and actually paying by check. It provides us with another form of identification. "

Through a series of meetings over the past several weeks, Sheriff Cook and his senior officers are meeting with local farmers.

Cook says he is urging the farmers to act as a sort of Neighborhood Watch for each others systems and farm areas.

Cook, "We're seeking to find out who is roaming our county looking to steal or vandalize."

Over the past week 3 arrests have been made. Several of them have familiar faces.

Cook, "They have numerous drug charges and theft charges and in some cases we've found they have been incarcerated here at the Detention center in the past."

"Drugs" Cook says, "Are a big part of why these thefts are getting so prevalent again; that and the rising value of copper."

If you see a copper theft or any crime happening in the county you are urged to call the sheriff's office at 870-762-2243.

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