Farmers Face Irrigation Wire Thefts Across Delmarva - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Farmers Face Irrigation Wire Thefts Across Delmarva

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 CAMBRIDGE, Md.- Another winter has brought another series of copper wire thefts from farmer's irrigation equipment. The Dorchester County Sheriff's Office said unfortunately, the dormant equipment in the winter makes for an easy target for thieves.

"Most of the thefts, well all the thefts that we know of are taking place during the dark hours of the night," said Sheriff James Phillips."You know, obviously the targets of opportunity, an irrigation is out in the middle of a big wide open field with no houses around."

Thieves will climb to the top of the machine and start cutting away at the expensive wiring, which only nets them a few hundred dollars. Phillips said the money, more often than not, goes towards feeding a drug addiction.

Kimberly Quathamer at Mid-Shore Recyclers says the thieves try to hide where the wire came from when they sell it.

"A lot of the times now they are separating this aluminum, and they'll bring the aluminum in separate and then they will burn the wiring inside the irrigation," said Quathamer.

Many times the thieves will burn the copper to hide that it is irrigation wire, but local scrap yards say they can still spot the difference. The scrap yards work with police to catch the thieves.

"If it's one of their suspects, I can call them and say hey such and such just brought 98 pounds of number two copper in here, it's irrigation wire, burnt." said Quathamer.

As for the farmers, it hits their pockets hard according to Wes Messick at Cloverdale Farms near Hurlock. He had four sections of his wiring cut away two years ago, and was out of pocket thousands of dollars.

"What it cost a farmer to get this wire put back on, it's minuscule for what he got out of it," said Messick.

"They end up with $100, $150 worth of scrap copper, and when  it comes time for the farmer to replace that same piece of wire, it could be in the tens of thousands of dollars to replace the same thing," said Sheriff Phillips.

Messick said he is thankful the sheriff was able to come out and apprehend the man responsible for those thefts before he did even more damage. He has also invested in an alarm system to prevent any future thefts.

"This copper wire, once it's cut, will call your cell phone and ten other cell phones  So if you don't answer, you don't have your cell phone it will call your house, an employee, even the sheriff's office," said Messick.

Sheriff Phillips said other farmers have used metal brackets or shielding to protect the wire. He said the best way to catch the thieves is to report any suspicious activity so they have the chance to catch the would-be thieves in the act.

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