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JEFFERSON CITY – Today, Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler, along with Missouri Highway Patrol Colonel Ron Replogle and Polk County Sheriff Steve Bruce, announced the latest successes of the Livestock & Farm Protection Task Force. The Task Force, reactivated in August 2009 by Gov. Jay Nixon, addresses the growing concerns of agriculture theft in communities across the state. Since 2009, law enforcement officials have recovered over $2.5 million in property, investigated 815 rural crime incidents and made 162 arrests.
“Farmers and ranchers face many challenges without adding the burden of losing livestock and equipment theft. The Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force continues to work together to educate law enforcement and farmers on what to look for when it comes to rural crimes,” said Dr. Hagler. “Through Gov. Nixon’s leadership, the Task Force brings many groups together toward and important common goal – combating rural crime. These efforts have resulted in millions of dollars in recovered property and criminal arrests.”
Rural crimes are classified by the Missouri State Highway Patrol as burglaries and theft of equipment, fuel, livestock, chemicals, grant, metal and property damage or arson. Success stories of the Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force include:
• Macon County ($750,000) – A northeast Missouri cattle fraud investigation involving the states of Nebraska, Iowa and Kentucky resulting in an indictment. As many as 1,500 head of cattle are suspected to have been defrauded from owners.
• Southeast Missouri ($960,000) – A fertilizer investigation resulted in the identification of three suspects and involves state and federal criminal charges. This is an active investigation which further indictments are expected.
• Southwest Missouri ($350,000) – A short-term undercover investigation into the theft of John Deere tractors led authorities to recover equipment valued at approximately $350,000 as well as the arrest of individuals across a multi-county area in the Springfield area.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol investigators have developed an outstanding relationship with Missouri’s Sheriff’s and frequently assist with investigations,” said Colonel Replogle. “Of 815 investigations, 743 have involved the Missouri State Highway Patrol working with outside agencies.”
The Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force members include the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Sheriffs’ Association, Missouri Office of Prosecution Services, Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Livestock Market Association, Missouri Bankers’ Association, University of Missouri Extension, Missouri State Water Patrol and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In conjunction with the Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force and Sheriff’s Departments, the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Rural Crimes Investigative Unit has hosted regional trainings for lead investigators and civilians. The training addresses the rural crime problems, recovery, challenges and solutions by exploring the growing problem of rural crimes, especially livestock and equipment theft. In addition, the training also addresses the latest equipment security technology.
“The spirit of cooperation within the Task Force has been incredibly valuable as we have worked to meet the needs of our rural communities,” said Sheriff Bruce, “and I believe that emphasis on teamwork comes from the outstanding leadership with each of the groups involved in the Task Force.”
For more information on the Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force, contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture at (573) 751-3377. To report a tip about an agriculture crime, contact the Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force hotline at (888) 484-8477. Calls are taken 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can remain anonymous.