Covert tech helps catch thieves stealing copper from farm irrigation equipment

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 7:31 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2023 at 8:04 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BATES COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - The Bates County Sheriff’s Office is using covert technology to try and catch copper wire thieves in the act who are damaging farmers’ irrigation equipment.

Thieves are cutting wiring on irrigation equipment to try to make fast cash on the copper inside the wiring. The crime is costing local farmers thousands of dollars to replace and fix the damage left behind.

“We’ve had two machines in the last year,” Mark Nelson said. “This is probably the fifth year out of the last 10 years that it has happened.”

Each time wiring is cut from irrigation equipment, it can cost farmers between $11,000-$12,000 to replace the wiring alone.

“It’s got to come to a stop,” Bates County Sheriff Chad Anderson said. “These guys feed America.”

Cody Myrtle’s employer’s farm equipment has also been targeted by copper thieves.

“They stole some wire throughout the night, got spooked and left the wire out in the field,” Myrtle said. “As we were harvesting the corn, it got caught in the combine. It’s just one problem after another when they are doing this. We’ve had seven irrigators over the last six months.”

The damaged irrigation equipment cannot be used to water crops until the wiring is replaced.

“It’s costing us a lot there, too,” Myrtle said. “Then, all of the downtime getting them fixed.”

Around 2 a.m. on April 21, deputies were alerted by the covert technology about a potential copper wire theft at an address in Amoret. Deputies searched the area and arrested Shannon Brundage and Courtney Patterson.

Prosecutors charged Brundage and Patterson with three counts of felony property damage and one count of felony attempted theft. Sheriff Anderson said evidence collected through the investigation has connected the two suspects to multiple irrigation thefts in Bates County, which cost local farmers collectively more than $100,000 in damages.

“I hope they keep catching them,” Nelson said.

Additional charges are possible in the ongoing investigation. Deputies are working to determine if more suspects are involved.

“We really want to send a message to the to the next thieves that this isn’t acceptable,” Anderson said. “I want them to know that Bates County is not a place to come to steal from our farmers. We’re going to work hard and tirelessly, put long hours in, and solve the crime.”