Merced Fights Back Against Metal Thieves

September 17, 2008 10:26:24 PM PDT
Merced County is forming a new law enforcement team to tackle the area's growing problem of agricultural theft.Bob Weimer has seen a staggering number of agriculture related thefts both as a grower himself and as the owner of an irrigation dealership.

Bob Weimer: "Last night there were 3 forklifts taken from packing sheds locally, we had an incident here where the fence was unbolted and opened up two days ago, it's moving throughout the county."

The Merced County Sheriff's Department says nearly a million dollars in stolen property has been reported so far this year, from brass irrigation valves to copper wire, and even entire diesel trucks. That's why the department is now forming a new sheriff tactical and reconnaissance, or "star" team that will focus on preventing and solving rural crimes.

Mark Pazin, Merced Co. Sheriff: "What we are going to do once we get this all finalized is have that Ag STAR be out during the evening hours to catch these thugs that are out ripping off the good people of Merced County."

The board of supervisors approved nearly 443 thousand dollars to fund the team on Tuesday. It will be made up of a sergeant and three deputies, which Sheriff Pazin says will greatly improve the county's ability to take a proactive approach toward Ag crimes.

Mark Pazin: "Merced County is roughly 2 thousand square miles, and we only had 2 detectives overseeing all these reports and all these thefts."

Weimer says he's optimistic the added law enforcement will help deter thieves and hopefully encourage more frustrated farmers to report crimes on their properties.

Bob Weimer: "The presence of the officers out here can't do anything but help."

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