Missouri Cattle Theft, Working Toward Prevention

evought's picture

There has been a lot of discussion locally about the increase in Missouri livestock theft, including recent community meetings hosted by the Cattlemen's Association. Fortunately, actual instances of thefts within Lawrence County are so far very low, but illegal activity in surrounding counties is legitimate cause for concern. Organized rustling ruins livelihoods. Insurance is expensive. The practice must be stopped. The Lawrence County Sheriff and members of the Auxiliary staff were present at the most recent community meeting (along with law enforcement from surrounding counties and the Barry County Prosecuting Attorney) and we have been in communication with the Sheriff regarding our role in combatting rustling.
One of the major efforts of law enforcement at the moment is analyzing information to determine patterns: What do we know about the thieves and their organization? What are their preferred targets? Are they using consistent methods? Is there more than one group? Much of this was discussed at the recent meeting, including information on high risk targets. The more information which can be developed, the better picture of the activity we have, and the better chance that limited law enforcement resources can be put where it matters.
At the Cattlemen's meeting, several ideas were put forward for increasing electronic surveillance and increasing its effectiveness. An approach which needs to be discussed is organized human patrols and surveillance. Law enforcement  is limited in what it can do by finite resources and the sheer magnitude of the problem: too much vulnerable area needs to be covered. The thieves know this and count on it to achieve their goals. This is one of the reasons that Brad Delay began the organization of the Sheriff's Auxiliary. Since February of 2012, we have been working hard to build the structure, form our staff, and create a training program from scratch. Now we are at the point of bringing on recruits and getting boots on the ground in the community not just to deter rustling, but to respond to disasters and emergencies. As we discuss in our earlier article on the San Bernadino police cutbacks, many people are saying that Law Enforcement budget cutbacks across the US will put more responsibility on citizens for their own defense, we believe a citizen's auxiliary presents a third and far better option between financial ruin and disorganized vigilantism.
The cattle thieves are very well organized. At least some of them are quite knowledgeable about livestock and how to abscond with the most valuable stock. They scout their targets well in advance, use stolen equipment to corral and transport the cattle, and have somewhere to commingle the cattle for later sale. Their vulnerability is that all of this activity provides ample opportunity for someone to spot them, for them to make mistakes, to slip into a pattern, and to leave a trail which law enforcement can follow. Loading and moving cattle takes time, requires large and visible equipment, and stock trailers are not the best vehicles for a high-speed getaway.
Rustlers are organized; we can organize, too, and there are more of us than there are of them.
If area cattlemen work together and with their Sheriff's Auxiliary, we can work with the Sheriff to organize rural watches, fill out a patrol schedule to supplement the deputies already out there, and maximize the chances of catching someone in the act of either planning raids or stealing cattle. As with most property crimes, all we need to do is increase their risks and raise their cost of doing business to the point where they scale back their operations, go elsewhere, or do something stupid and get caught. An organized watch structure, communications, and neighborhood contacts enables us to identify suspicious activity quickly, determine whether it is legitimate, and minimize the Sheriff's response time. Increased manpower also simply gives the Sheriff more options for taking action against rustlers.
In order to do that, well, it comes down to this: We need a few good men (and women). We need volunteers willing to be trained, we need some equipment and resources, and we need people to work with us to plan an effective community-wide response. The organization we build can make a difference, not just with this issue, but also in future challenges our community may face.


Post Type: