Several years ago, one favorite item on the list of valuable things to steal from the rural area was electrical wiring on irrigation pivots.
Over the past three weeks, that ‘want list’ has expanded to include radiators and batteries from motors on the pivots and from buildings on abandoned and unoccupied farmsteads, and that has Saline County investigators working overtime to handle the explosion of cases.
Since Nov. 1, at least 20 incidents have been reported across the northern half of Saline County (north of County Road K) involving thousands of dollars in felony thefts, according to Sgt. Ken Uher with the Saline County Sheriff’s Office.
“If there are 20 reported, there are likely more thefts that are unreported or yet undetected,” Uher said. “We have received more reports along the Turkey Creek basin than any other area, but the thieves have been stealing mostly batteries and radiators from the north half of the county and into surrounding counties.”
The average loss at an irrigation pivot site is about $1,000, but other battery and radiator thefts are occurring from sheds, buildings and parked vehicles — including tractors — on farm places without residents.
Investigators have pinpointed the main times of the thefts between 5 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Many thefts have occurred at pivot sites adjacent to county roads, but some theft sites are in the middle of sections, forcing the thieves to drive onto an irrigated plot to get at the pivot motor site.
“This is the worst I’ve seen it in the past 10 years or so,” Uher said. “It has always been an ongoing problem, but for some unknown reason these types of thefts have increased exponentially the last three weeks.”
Sheriff Alan Moore urges area residents to take note of any suspicious vehicles or people in the areas surrounding their farms.
“We want to make sure people report anything out of the ordinary quickly so we can investigate scenes while evidence is still fresh,” Moore said. “Sometimes all it takes to catch criminals like this is an observant person. Any information provided, including a license plate number and a description of the vehicle (color, body style, etc.), could help us solve some cases.”
Persons with information on past thefts are encouraged to call Saline County Crimestoppers at 800-345-3361 or the Saline County Sheriff’s Office at 402-821-2111. If a crime in progress is observed, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.