On April 8, 2008, Governor Matt Blunt spoke from the sale barn floor at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center in Springfield, Mo. The topic? Cattle theft, and the realization that truly, southern Missouri is a hot spot. “We have been disturbed by reports of cattle theft. When cattle prices are healthy and inputs into cattle are high, people want to reap that profit without any of the cost,” Blunt said. The Missouri Cattle Theft Task Force was created in 2006 to work with the Highway Patrol, the State Water Patrol and the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) and the local sheriff's department to deter thieves.

Reducing the Threat
Within a year of the task force’s creation, MIAC received, processed, and analyzed 299 theft reports totaling more than 1,686 head of cattle and 12 stolen pick-ups/trailers. Since the creation of the task force, there have been 26 arrests of cattle rustlers and 126 cattle recovered. “This recovery and return is significant,” Blunt added.
Blunt said he wants to remind any potential thieves that the penalties are real, and the efforts will be put forth to bring thieves to justice.
When local cattle producers pressed the governor for specifics regarding penalty and conviction, he said each county will have their own rules, but he believes because of the value of the property, thieves will see “substantial penalties,” adding, “I’d be supportive of increasing penalties.”
Corporal R. Steven Crain, a criminal investigator with the Missouri State Water Patrol said local producers must be the eyes and ears out there, knowing what is going on, watching for strange vehicles or people in their neighborhoods. Crain noted livestock theft of any species was a Class C felony. To prevent being a victim of such a felony, he offered some tips and suggestions.

Here's What You Can Do
Crain said often it is when cattle are all located in a central nucleus- a holding pen, barn or structure, they can be most vulnerable to theft.
He also said to beware when you are selling cattle over the internet. “Know the people you are dealing with. If you don’t know them, don’t get greedy. If (a buyer) says he’s coming with a check, beware. If you want to take cash that’s your business, but just be careful when you’re taking checks from people you don’t know,” Crain warned. Often a bad or fake check will take days for the bank to catch. “Also, get positive i.d.,” he said.
When rustlers cut fences, Crain said it often means the thief has been there before. “He knows the property and he knows you. If your cattle are stolen, and you look at the whole picture, he knew how to get in, he knew where you were when he got in.”
Crain said although chains and locks can be cut, a cut chain is still evidence. “There are only so many bolt cutters out there.” He said he takes the cut chain as evidence, the event is logged and the crime lab in Jefferson City, Mo., identifies what kind of tool was used to cut the chain. Crain said the more evidence the better chance in leading officials to the suspect, especially if the criminal has multiple offenses.
Crain said you should vary your routine and don’t check your cattle at the same time every day. Also, he said to avoid coffee shop gossip and chatter. “Beware what you’re talking about,” he warned.
When several producers suggested the benefit in “taking care” of cattle theft on their own terms, Crain said he would warn against taking the law into your own hands, because in today’s legal system, that can get you into a lot of trouble. “You have to do your part. Post no trespassing signs, and if you find someone on your property, ask them their name. Take their picture. Get their license plate number and call us.
“I know what you’d like to do if you catch them in your field, but you can’t do that. You also can’t hold someone there for trespassing. If you catch someone stealing cattle or property, we need them to be alive and we need to be able to arrest them when we get there. If you do the right thing, sooner or later you’ll get yours and they’ll get theirs.”

Be the Eyes and Ears
Contact Corporal R. Steven Crain with information on cattle theft in your area or with your concerns: 417-895-6868 ext. 243.
Contact MIAC at 1-866-362-6422. You can call with information 24 hours a day 7 days a week and you can remain anonymous.
Also, find on our website (www.ozarksfn.com) a link to the Livestock Marketing Association’s Missing or Stolen Cattle alerts.


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