CARLISLE AR — It’s not just the oppressive heat causing trouble for Arkansas farmers, authorities say copper thieves are also creating major headaches for the men and women who help feed our families.
According to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office, nearly every day copper thieves are stealing from people in Lonoke county, sometimes shutting down farms for a few dollars worth of scrap metal.
With long hours in the hot sun, farming is already hard enough for Daniel Bowlan.
“It’s like my dad said you won’t get rich but it’s a living, it’s just hard work,” says Bowlan.
These days, Bowlan is short handed and says criminals are making the work even harder.
“Nobody wants to work, they’d rather steal the copper,” says Bowlan.
Just down the road from his wheat crops, a trail of broken power lines highlight the heart of his troubles.
“They’re stealing everything I got, stealing copper, shutting wells down,” says Bowlan.
Dozens of police reports document cases of thieves shooting and snatching down power lines, stripping them of copper and consequently shutting down power used for water pumps.
“It cost me $2500 to have the well fixed and they probably got $15 worth of copper,” says Bowlan.
But so far, authorities say the criminals are proving difficult to catch and convict.
“The problem with scrap metal theft, is burden of proof is on law enforcement,” says Lt. Jim Kulesa.
Authorities fear if the crimes continue the impact could be felt beyond the farming community.
“In the long term, it affects the crops then it affects the consumers,” Lt. Kulesa adds.
Also short-handed, the sheriff’s office is asking the farmers to get creative and look into surveillance systems while looking out for one another.
Bowlan says, “They better watch out, people are getting tired of it and something is going to transpire.”
Some people are trying things like putting special powder on copper items to help them detect stolen copper if it’s sold. They’re also looking into adding cameras and hiring additional farm hands.