Farmer hit hard by metal thieves

LONOKE COUNTY (KATV) - Metal thefts have plagued Lonoke County this year -- at least 91 separate thefts, one which ended up costing a resident about $70,000.

"Somebody just drove down the county road and recognized this as being a cash cow for them," said Tommy Drew, a farmer and a victim of copper theft.

This is the fourth time Drew has been hit by copper thieves this year.

"Ten feet of copper wire. It's heavy wire. It's high grade stuff, but for what they would have sold it to a salvage yard or whoever their buyer is might have netted them $8 to $10."

Ten bucks worth of copper to a thief turns to $300 in repairs for a Drew, but he got off easy this time. The last thief caused him $1,500.

"It's affecting every landowner out here. It's not just copper wire. There's nothing you can leave out here, four-wheelers, generators, utility trailers, batteries off tractors."

In Lonoke County alone, there have been 91 reported metal thefts, but the sheriff's office believes it's more than that. Often farmers don't even bother calling the sheriff.

"These are really hard cases to work. You may get an individual with a bunch of stolen metal, but how do you prove where it comes from?" said Lt. James Kulesa.

The sheriff's office is working with scrap metal yards to identify criminals but catching them in the act is key. That's why they need help from neighbors.

"There's no reason anybody should be pulling a trailer full of metal pipe or scrap metal at two o'clock in the morning," said Lt. Kulesa.

Just a license plate and a location called in by someone passing by can make the difference to farmers just trying to make a living. Drew doesn't hold out hope that the thieves will change their ways.

"Now that they know it's here, and they drive by the road, and they know it's easy access. We'll get hit again," said Drew.