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State Aims to Combat Rural Area Crimes

When the economy continued to fall in 2009 rural areas began to see a major rise in stolen farm property, forcing several state organizations to reactivate a task force aimed at preventing such theft. KSMU’s Justin Lux takes a look at its progress.

The Livestock and Farm Property Task Force is a joint effort between the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Highway Patrol and sheriff departments throughout the state.

Steve Bruce is the sheriff of Polk County as well as a co-chairman on the task force. As he explains, with the financial struggles that many face in today’s economy, the opportunity to make a quick buck is sometimes too much for some people to resist.

“A lot of it has to do with the economy. A lot of it has to do with the fact that once this equipment is stolen and resold it’s a 100% profit and there is a demand for farm equipment out here. When the economy is as rough as it is right now a lot of people are naturally looking for bargains,” he says.

Sheriff Bruce says that in some cases one key may have the ability to start thousands of different tractors, making it easy for thieves to make off with the equipment.

Often times the criminal activity is a result of organized groups that span over several states. As a result, Colonel Ron Replogle and the Missouri Highway Patrol have sought to address the rural crime problem through way of a federal grant that has allowed them to hire 10 criminal investigators.

“We bring in investigators that can assist with those investigations and maybe even go into other states and work with investigators from those agencies in other states to address the problem and look at some of the organized efforts,” Replogle says.

Since the task force was reintroduced in 2009, officials have investigated 815 incidents and made 163 arrests resulting in over $2.5 million in stolen farm property.

The task force reminds citizens that if you do see any suspicious vehicles and cattle trailers to write down the license plate and contact the task force hotline at 888-484-8477. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and all callers remain anonymous.

It’s also important for neighbors to keep a close eye out for anything unusual on nearby land.

For KSMU News, I’m Justin Lux.