Crime On The Farm: Hay Thefts Soar As Drought Deepens | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Crime On The Farm: Hay Thefts Soar As Drought Deepens

Play associated audio

Your crime fodder ... sorry, make that blotter ... news of the day.

From St. Louis:

"As if it's not bad enough that Missouri farmers are trying to survive the worst drought in decades, now many of them are facing a new problem that's costing them big bucks. Missouri Farm Bureau president Blake Hurst says thieves are actually targeting those big bundles of hay that are left out in fields prior to being harvested, hauling them off and selling the valuable commodity." (CBS St. Louis)

Butler County, Kansas:

"Butler County sheriff's deputies are being ordered off the highways and onto county roads as they try to stop a big problem. Thieves are stealing thousands of dollars in hay bales." (KAKE-TV)

Butte County, California:

"Crops like hay have ... become a major target. 'It's happened to three different growers of ours, and some of them have been hit two or three times,' according to Custom Hay Operator Carl Martin. He says the number of thefts rose with the price of hay, and now that the crop is worth over $200 a ton, those growers are losing $200 to $300 of product every time they get ripped off." (KHSL-TV)

And earlier this year, from Frederick, Okla.:

"Two Tillman County men are facing felony charges of Knowingly Concealing and Withholding Stolen Property after their arrest for stealing hay from a local farmer. Sheriff Bobby Whittington states that the farmer suspected he was missing some round bales from a field northwest of Grandfield. A GPS tracking device was placed in one of the bales left in the field and when the alleged thieves drove off with the bale, it sent a text message to Sheriff Whittington's cellphone stating that the bale was moving." (Frederick Press-Leader)

You can see where this story's going. The deep drought across much of the nation, and an economy that's been struggling to get going in recent years appear to have combined to make hay quite valuable and quite attractive to thieves. So much so, in fact, that the sheriff in Oklahoma put something of a needle (that GPS tracking device) in a haystack to crack one case.

Update at 12:30 p.m. ET. Sheriff Whittington On How He Nabbed The Suspects:

The GPS tracker, Whittington told NPR's Renee Montagne late Tuesday morning, was placed in a bale at a farm where he suspected there would be more thefts. It "was programmed to text my cellphone whenever it left a certain area," he said. "I received text about 9:40, 9:45 p.m." He called an under sheriff, who got on a computer and tracked the moving bale.

"He was able to relay to me where the bale was at," Whittington said. "I arrived in time to see the suspect vehicle kind of drop the bale off behind a house." He watched as the vehicle left, and followed to see if it might return to the farmer's field.

Trailing behind with his car's lights off, the sheriff says he "observed him pull into the farmer's field ... and snatch another bale."

The suspects tried to tell the sheriff that it was their bale of hay. "I said, that's not what the GPS says," Whittington told Renee.

Then one of the men, "kind of dropped his old head and said 'well, can I just take it back and not go to jail?' " Whittington recounted.

"I said no."

In his county, Whittington says, the price of a bale of grass hay has gone from $15 to $25 before the drought to between $65 and $70. A bale of alfalfa has risen from $45 to $60 before the drought to between $140 and $150.

More from Renee's conversation with the sheriff is due on Wednesday's Morning Edition. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show. After the interview airs, we'll add it to the top of this post.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Picasso, Nazis And A Daring Escape In 'My Grandfather's Gallery'

As a little girl, Anne Sinclair knew Pablo Picasso. She talks with NPR's Scott Simon about why she didn't want the master to paint her picture, and her new memoir, My Grandfather's Gallery.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Texas Gubernatorial Candidates Go The Border To Court Voters

Republicans have won every statewide office in Texas for 20 years, but the growing Hispanic population tends to vote Democrat, and the GOP's survival may depend on recruiting Hispanic supporters.
NPR

Tech Week: Smartphone Privacy, Cyberstalking, Alibaba's Big Debut

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba makes the biggest debut on the NYSE ever. The details, and the other tech stories that piqued our interest, are in this week's roundup.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.