Agricultural thefts being targeted by new task force - - Jackson, MS

Agricultural thefts being targeted by new task force

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A middle of nowhere farm can be an easy target for criminals. The dollar value of agricultural crimes in Mississippi totaled more than a million dollars last year. There's a big business for buying and selling metals. 

Copper, in particular, is a hot commodity. That's why the Secretary of State's office has launched the Mississippi Delta Agricultural Theft Task Force.

"These thieves have been going out there in the middle of nowhere and stealing the copper out of their wells," said Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

Hosemann said those types of thefts make up about one third of all agricultural crimes in the state. And it's the farmers who are left taking a big hit.

"It costs thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of dollars to replace those for basically a few hundred dollars worth of copper," added Hosemann.

But thanks to a law passed a few years ago, folks can't just get cash in hand if they take something like copper to a scrap yard. There's a three day hold to allow time to review that person's information and where the metal came from.

Mississippi's new task force includes Arkansas and Louisiana law enforcement and scrap yards. They'll share information through an online system called LeadsOnline.

"These thieves, we're making it hard for them to make profit and easier to go to prison," noted Hosemann.

There are several agencies who are part of the task force. One is the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. It already has a theft bureau. Here is the statement from Cindy Hyde-Smith, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce:

“The Mississippi Agriculture and Livestock Theft Bureau (MALTB), a division of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce under the leadership of Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, enforces state laws pertaining to the theft of cattle, horses, swine, poultry, fish, farm equipment, chemicals, timber, and all other farm or agriculture-related crimes. The Ag Theft bureau, established in 1993, consists of nine investigators, one for each of the Mississippi Highway Patrol Districts. In FY 2015, the Ag Theft bureau investigated 340 cases with a majority of those cases being related to equipment, timber, livestock and grain theft.  The dollar value of reported crimes in FY 2015 was nearly $1.7 million.

Many agricultural theft crimes occur in rural areas where there are often no witnesses making it more difficult to recover stolen items. In many cases, the victims may not be aware a crime was committed for several days or weeks such as in the instance of timber theft from an absentee landowner."

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