The Rural Crime Unit of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Moniteau County sheriff’s office addressed the theft of agricultural equipment and other rural crime March 3 at the California Adult Agriculture Education meeting.

Trooper Darrin Haslag, an investigator with the unit, gave information on the types of theft occurring in the area. Items stolen include tools, ATVs, tractors and field equipment. Haslag also indicated that most of the rural crimes are committed by those looking for quick cash to support their drug habit.

Trooper Bruce Houston, also on the Rural Crime Unit, emphasized the rule of “JDLR,” which stands for “just doesn’t look right.” He said everyone should keep a notepad and pen in their vehicle and write down information about vehicles, people and “especially license numbers” any time they notice anything out of the ordinary. Such information can be vital if theft or other crime occurs in the area.

Deputy Kevin Morris of the Moniteau County sheriff’s office stated that if strangers are spotted in areas such as creek beds or farm fields to call the sheriff’s office as soon as possible and get license numbers if vehicles are parked nearby. He also advised that these people should not be confronted, as they are often armed.

Morris said the incidence of methamphetamine labs has significantly decreased in the county. This is due to increased regulation of prescription drugs and other substances used to manufacture the substance. Currently, the larger problem is theft of agricultural machinery to convert to quick cash to buy drugs now being imported into the area.

Haslag made several suggestions to reduce the probability of theft in rural areas. He recommends motion lighting to illuminate the area, installation of a video surveillance system to record people or vehicles (simple trail cameras can be used if secure and hidden), recording serial numbers on all equipment and keeping records in a safe place.

Identifying marks put on tools or equipment where not easily found can also help identify stolen items when recovered. Always remove keys from tractors and other vehicles.

Any method to deter thieves can reduce the probability of theft. Telephone Mid-MO Rural Crime Unit at 573-526-6329 and the Moniteau County sheriff’s office at 573-796-2525.