- Author: Shannon C. Mueller
I copied this article from our local Farm Bureau News. It was written by Sgt. Ryan Hushaw, Fresno Sheriff's Ag Task Force. Although the references are for Fresno County, the tips are relevant everywhere so I thought I'd share.
Although the typical hay thief does not steal large quantities, we often see anywhere from 20 to 30 bales of hay being stolen at a time. This can obviously add up for the grower over time. It is not uncommon for hay thieves to fill up an entire truck bed or flat-bed trailer with the stolen bales.
These thefts usually occur at night when there are fewer people out to witness the theft and the suspects can use the cover of darkness to their advantage. Once the hay is in their possession, they will either attempt to sell the stolen hay for a profit or they will use the hay for their own personal operations.
One way to help avoid being the victim of hay theft is to prevent vehicular access to your property. Hay bales are large and cumbersome, usually requiring a vehicle parked within close proximity to load the bales into. If the suspects cannot access your property by vehicle with ease, they are less likely to steal your hay.
If your hay is stored in a remote location, alert those trusted persons living nearby as to when any movement of hay should occur and when it shouldn't, as well as what vehicles they should expect to see on the property when legitimate movement of the hay is occurring. Those witnessing any suspicious activity believed to be related should contact the Sheriff's Office immediately.
As with any agricultural equipment, it is important to mark your property so it is identifiable to both yourself and law enforcement. You may ask, "How in the world do I mark hay?" While this is a valid question, we have seen several successful methods in which you can make your hay bales more identifiable.
Some farmers use spray paint to mark a small initial or identifiable mark on one side of the bale. We have also seen the use of twine or ties that have identifiable marks and/or color combinations, making them easier to identify. For example, our office receives a reported theft of hay and the farmer/victim states each bale is tied with twine that has a color combination of red, green, and black. If we later locate bales believed to be stolen and they have this associated color combination, we then know who to contact to come out to the scene in hopes of identifying the suspected stolen property.
One of our patrol deputies recently attempted to stop a suspicious truck that was hauling hay in the late evening hours. The driver fled from the vehicle on foot before the deputy could make a U-turn and pull up behind the parked vehicle. The truck and trailer were loaded with hay bales, however, the deputy was ultimately unable to locate a victim due to a lack of identifying marks or signatures on the bales.
For Fresno County Growers:
If you have any questions or concerns, or you would like to speak with the detective working your area, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 559-600-8150. You may also reach us by email at AgCrimes@fresnosheriff.org.
As a reminder; if you are calling our office regarding a crime that has not yet been reported to our agency, we ask that you call our 24-hour dispatch center at 559-600-3111. A deputy will either be dispatched to your location to take the report in person, or they may take the report over the telephone on rare occasions.